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Getting to School Safely

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WebMD Health News

Aug. 13, 2001 -- School buses are about to start rolling and all children need a safety review this time of year -- whether they are very young children riding the bus, older kids walking to the bus stop alone, or biking it. And if your child has hit the teen years, driving to school may be an issue in your home.

In 1999, an estimated 7,000 children were injured in school bus-related incidents, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign. Thirty-one were killed that year -- more than half killed as they approached or were leaving the bus, says Heather Paul, PhD, executive director of Safe Kids.

The problem: the "blind spot danger zone" -- the 10-foot area surrounding the bus, Paul tells WebMD.

"The driver cannot see a child close to any side of the bus," says Paul. "Sadly, when children can see the bus driver, the bus driver cannot see them. All children should know that.

"More than half of all school-aged children who get killed in school-bus accidents are between the ages of 5 and 7," she says. "So we're talking about really small kids, who don't know the rules of the road, who don't understand buses. Parents and teachers need to teach them those lessons."

Her advice for you and your child:

  • Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives.
  • Stay out of the street and avoid horseplay.
  • Cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus.
  • Use the handrail to avoid falls.
  • Always wait for parents on the same side of the street as the school bus.
  • Remove loose drawstrings or ties on jackets and sweatshirts that can snag on bus handrails, and replace them with Velcro, snaps, or buttons.
  • Ask the bus driver for help if anything is dropped while entering or exiting the bus.

"We never advise kids under age 10 to walk to the bus stop alone," Paul tells WebMD. "They don't have the cognitive abilities to make the right decisions. You don't have to hold a 10-year-old's hand, but there should be a mature adult walking with them."

But if your child is ready to walk it alone, here are some more tips:

  • Choose the safest route and walk it with your child a few times.
  • Teach your child to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings.
  • Make sure your child looks in all directions before crossing the street.
  • Teach your child not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs.
  • Teach your child to cross the street at the corner or crosswalk.
  • Warn your child to be extra alert in bad weather.

Neighborhood safety is another issue, says Kellie Foster, spokesperson for the National Crime Prevention Center in Washington. "It's a good idea for neighbors to get together, to keep an eye out for reach other," Foster tells WebMD. "It's one of the simplest ways to encourage safety. ... A child should know that they can go to any responsible adult -- a police officer, crossing guard, mailman -- if they do not feel safe."

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