Walking to school can have multiple benefits for you and your kids such as spending time outdoors and starting the day with physical activity. However, with drivers distracted by texting, tweeting and phone calls, the danger of walking to school has increased over the years. While it's important that drivers are alert, kids should be too.
Is it safe to walk to school?
During the back-to-school season, the Emergency Department at Children's Health℠ sees an increase in trauma-related pedestrian, bicycle and school bus injuries. Many of these injuries result from a collision with a vehicle and are preventable by following some simple safety guidelines.
"Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19," says Jesus Alderete, Senior Injury Prevention Coordinator at Children's Health. "Together, we will educate students about safe pedestrian behaviors, identify pedestrian hazards and work with schools and communities to improve environments for child pedestrians."
To help prevent pedestrian accidents, teach kids traffic safety rules and other ways to pay attention to safety while walking.
Walking to school safety tips
These pedestrian safety tips will help keep your child safe while they walk to school. Use the following guidelines to help your child plan a safe walk to school:
- Children should walk with an adult until they are at least 10 years old.
- Map out safe routes to school with your children before they head out on their own.
- Encourage kids to stay off cell phones and think twice about wearing earphones. Kids should be able to hear their surroundings when walking to school.
- Make sure children wear light-colored or bright clothing to be more visible to drivers.
- Children will model the behavior of adults, so be mindful of pedestrian rules to set a good example and keep kids safe.
How to help kids cross streets safely
Use these tips to help children cross streets safely:
- Kids should hold a grown-up's hand when they cross the street or are in parking lots.
- Always cross the street at a corner or at a crosswalk and obey traffic signals; cross with a crossing guard if there is one.
- Walk on a sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the street, facing oncoming traffic.
- Look left, right, then left again before crossing the street. Continue looking while you cross.
- Do not cross behind the bus or between parked cars where a driver cannot see you.
- Always make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street.
Evaluating safety along school routes
Each year, coalitions from Safe Kids Walk This Way have created local task forces with the goal of improving safety along school routes. Examples of things these groups evaluate include:
- If there is a curb at the school entrance
- If pedestrian safety lights and countdown timers are available where needed
- If crossing signs are in place where needed
- If crosswalks are easy to see and if there are flashing lights to alert drivers
- If safety levels would be increased with solar-powered flashing school zone and speed limit signs
- If speedboards or flexiposts would help slow down traffic
You can check for these safety measures by taking a practice walk around your child's route.
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