We suggest parents now talk to your children about the rules for getting to and from school safely. No skipping over the hard part: talking about when everyone, parents and children alike, should put down the cell phone.
Walking to School. Encourage your child to use sidewalks and crosswalks with crossing guards or walk signals. Agree on a route with your child and never let them walk alone. Every year, drive or walk the route yourself so you can identify any problems.
Bicycling. Make sure your child wears a helmet – it’s the law and it’s common sense. While your child has many of the same rights as a driver, remind them to take it slow in parking lots or and when passing cars. They should learn to make eye contact with drivers in their vicinity–that way they can read the intention of the driver more clearly. Read about Massachusetts law for bicyclists.
Late Activities. It will get dark earlier now. Make sure you child has a safe way home after it gets dark. Consider picking them up or make other arrangements.
Reflective Clothing. If your teenager needs to walk at night or be near traffic, consider purchasing reflective clothing to keep at home. Many backpacks and sneakers have reflectors–look for products like that.
Ask Your Children to Put Away Their Cell Phone. When students are distracted, they may not be able to respond to drivers who are not using caution. Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit organization, recently reported that it observed 34,000 children crossing the street near 68 U.S. schools. Of these, one in five high school students were distracted by an electronic device. The rate was one in eight among middle school students.
The numbers are significant because pedestrian accidents involving teens age 16-19 have increased 25 percent over the past five years, Safe Kids Worldwide reports. This age group now accounts for about half of all pedestrian accidents among youth.
School Buses. At the beginning of the year, stand out at the bus stop with your children. Explain to them the appropriate areas to stand while waiting and how to board the bus.
Parents and Teen Drivers: Commit to No Distracted Driving
Finally, parents if you are driving, commit to putting away your cell phone. Texting while driving is against the law in Massachusetts and that includes viewing texts, e-mails or browsing the Internet.
Drivers need to eliminate distractions, especially when children are in the car, and especially in busy drop-off areas at schools, because car accidents can occur. This time of year, bus drivers and other parents who are driving are still getting used to their new routine and may not use proper caution when stopping or turning.
Also avoid using your cell phone while parked outside of schools or at bus stops waiting for your children – even just to make phone calls. An accident can happen in the instant you let your guard down and reach for your cell phone to view a text message or check in on a social media account.
If you have a teenager who drives, remind them not to use their cell phone while driving (this is the law in Massachusetts for junior operators). You have probably done so in the past, but explain the school parking lot is busy and there is no room for distracted driving. If they want to use their cell phone in a parking lot, suggest they park the car, get out and walk off the pavement first.
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