With school bells ringing across the country to mark a new year, the American Red Cross has steps that everyone can take to make the trip back to the classroom safer.
“Starting or heading back to school can be challenging for children,” said Dr. David Markenson, chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and pediatric expert. “Safety should be a priority – especially for younger children and first-timers.”
“When planning for back-to-school safety, basic safety steps parents can take is to make sure the child knows his or her home phone number and address, parents’ work contact information, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1,” Markenson added. “Parents should also teach their children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.”
If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety steps for students include:
- Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed you to get on.
- Only board your bus and never an alternate one.
- Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
- Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
- Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.
Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.
When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children and children taking new routes or attending new schools to school, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.
Take a Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED course (www.redcross.org/training) so you’ll have the knowledge and skills to act if an injury or emergency happens. Be the coolest parents or guardians on the block by showing your tweens and teens that you’ve downloaded the free “S.O.S. by the American Red Cross” app and have them download it too. The app for Android mobile devices (https://market.android.com) provides real-time care instructions and an expansive resource guide for emergency care information in order to help save lives.