The back to school season always brings extra traffic, and unfortunately car crashes are the top reason children and teens die each year. So far, this year has not been an exception.
The first day of school for students at Rocky Branch Elementary in Oconee County was marked by eight accidents—seven in the morning and one in the afternoon. Thankfully, the sheriff’s office reported no serious injuries in the accidents, but rear-end collisions like these are common during the school year, when more drivers are on the road.
In 2016, the state of Florida had almost 135,000 children under the age of 18 in crashes, which resulted in nearly 2,000 serious bodily injuries and 161 fatalities. This fatality rate is up a shocking 32 percent from 2014.
So what can you do? Here are some tips on how to keep your kids safe on the drive to school.
School Commuting Tips Florida Parents Need to Know
Follow the Laws
It’s crucial to wear your seatbelt and to teach your child to do the same. Make sure your young children under 40 pounds are safely secured in child safety seats and sitting in the back seat. Additionally, booster seats are required for children ages 4 to 8 who are over 40 pounds and under 49 inches tall.
Slow Down and Pay Attention
It’s a good time of year to reevaluate your speeding habits. Slow down and pay more attention to speed limit signs, traffic signals, and pedestrians.
Also, don’t forget to put your smartphone down while you drive. In fact, remove any distractions that you can – all kinds of things can take your attention from the road, and you can be sure that your children notice your good example if you are focused on the road.
Drop Off and Pickup
Your school should have a specific plan in place for drop off and pickup. It’s important to follow school guidelines, because more children are hit by cars at schools than in any other location, according to this report.
Other good habits to follow in the school zone are avoiding the temptation to double park, as it decreases visibility. Don’t block the crosswalk near the school, as this can limit pedestrian passage. Allow your children to exit your vehicle without having to cross the street. You can reduce the number of cars at school by carpooling with other families.
Watch out for Pedestrians
More children are on the streets this time of year as they walk to school. It’s smart to assign one adult to supervise a group of children as they walk together.
Navigate your child’s walk to school. Make sure it’s safe, well-lit, and supervised by crossing guards near the school.
Some children need extra training on pedestrian skills. Practice looking both ways and crossing the street with your child. Consider whether your child is mature enough to walk safely on their own. It’s important to walk with them the first few times to ensure they are ready.
Dressing your child in bright colors or buying them a brightly colored backpack will make them more visible while they’re walking to school.
Share the Road with Buses
School buses need more leeway than other vehicles because they stop so frequently. Choose to follow buses at a greater distance to avoid accidents. It is illegal in every state to pass a bus while children are exiting or entering. The 10-foot perimeter around a school bus is the most dangerous area for children. Make sure to leave a wide berth for kids to have enough space to move.
Remember that children may make unpredicted moves and plan be more alert when you are stopped near a bus. Their safety is of utmost importance, and you must wait to move until they are safely off the street.
Defer to Cyclists
Motorists need to be hyper-aware of children who ride bikes to school. Be especially when turning left, which is when the most cycling accidents occur. Always defer to the cyclist if you are driving, and remember that children often don’t make turn signals while on their bicycles.
If your child is biking to school, make sure they always wear a helmet to protect against serious injury. Teach them to ride with the traffic, respect traffic signs and lights, and use hand signals. Encourage them to wear bright colors to increase visibility.
If Your Kid Is Injured Due to Another’s Negligence, Don’t Take It Lying Down
If your child has been injured in an accident on the way to or from school, seek legal counsel to protect your rights. Your child’s safety is of utmost importance, and if your child has been injured, you need the advice and expertise of an experienced attorney. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation.