Children most at risk at start of the school year
It’s that time of the year again–the start of school. For many children and teens, it’s a time of eager anticipation, and also much change and a little anxiety. But it’s also a dangerous time for kids making their way to school. With so much activity and excitement on the first couple days, kids can become distracted, whether on their way to catch the bus or crossing the street while walking to school. And drivers aren’t always as careful as they should be. Racing to drop kids off and get to work, it can be a time of change for them as well.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, cars hit more children during this time of year than at any other time. Every day, 44 kids are hit by a car while walking in the United States, and 16,000 kids are hurt every year.
It is an especially dangerous time of year for children and teens in neighborhoods, and especially in school zones. In fact, unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. Teens have the greatest risk with a death rate twice that of younger children.
“It is never too early to teach a child the rules of the road,” says Alix McNulty, an injury prevention coordinator at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and Park Ridge, Ill. “The roadways are for cars, bikes and for people. Teach children to use the sidewalks, streets and crosswalks as early as possible.”
“With the addition of a timer on the crosswalk signals, children can be more aware about the changing of street lights,” says Dr. Swalani Omprakash, an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “However, children also need to be taught to not only watch that timer, but also to look around because many cars try to ‘beat the light’ and don’t pay attention to the crosswalk or who is in it.”
Also, always remember these safety tips from Safe Kids Worldwide:
- While waiting, stand several steps back from the curb. If a parent can’t be with the child, discuss the appropriate place to stand ahead of time.
- Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop. Make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing.
- Look left, right and left again before crossing. Continue looking until safely on the other side.
- Children under 10 should be accompanied by an adult because until that age, most are not able to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars. Be especially alert if a car is turning or backing up.
- Don’t run or dart into traffic and don’t cross between parked cars.
- If it is dark outside, make yourself visible by wearing light-colored clothing and reflective gear.
- Put away phones, headphones and devices when crossing streets.
- Always follow the speed limit and reduce speed in school zones and near bus stops. Stay alert and look for children trying to get to or from the bus stop.
- Slow down or stop if driving near a school bus with flashing lights or with an extended side-view stop sign. Children are about to get off the bus.
- Put cell phones and other distractions away when driving. Put them in the back seat or out of sight.
- Slow down and stay alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Also watch for bikers, walkers or runners who can be distracted.
- Always give pedestrians the right of way. Look both ways when making a turn to spot a biker, walker or runner.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.