Break Point!

Volume 2, Issue 9 View the Archives September, 1999
Break Point's Big Back to School Issue
Getting to School the Old-Fashioned Way: Walking
School Buses: Know the Danger Zones
Teen Drivers- Novices Behind the Wheel
Bicycle Safety From Head to Toe
Carpooling Your Precious Cargo
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Break Point's Big Back to School Issue

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

Many people have often heard exaggerated stories of the hardships their parents or grandparents had getting to school. Stories of the ten-mile walks in the snow, with only one shoe on and carrying their brother on their back. Today, the trip to school is considerably easier. Children arrive at school in various ways: by school bus, bicycle, walking or by car.

This month, Break Point will focus on getting our children off to school safely. We encourage parents to review all these safety tips with their children before school starts. School bus safety, pedestrian safety, bicycle safety, teen driving tips and safely traveling by car will be the topics focused on this month.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

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Getting to School the Old-Fashioned Way: Walking

Discussing the new school year with friends while walking to school can be fun. While children are walking to school, they often get caught up in conversation and do not pay attention to the traffic around them. In 1996, 5157 pedestrians were killed. On a per mile basis, walking is more dangerous activity than driving, flying, riding on a bus or train (Mean Streets 1998). Review simple pedestrian safety tips with your children to help them travel to and from school safely:

  • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk and you have to walk on the side of the road, always walk FACING traffic.
  • Dress to be seen. Wear brightly colored clothing so drivers can see you during the daytime. At night, wear reflective tape on you shoes, cap or jacket to reflect the headlights of the cars coming towards you.

Tips for crossing the street:

  • Cross only at corners or marked crosswalks.
  • Stop at the curb, or the edge of the road.
  • Stop and look left, then right and then left again, before you step into the street.
  • If you see a car, wait until it goes by, then look left, then right and then left again then proceed to cross the street.
  • If a car is parked where you are crossing, go to the nearest crosswalk.
  • Walk-do not run across the street.
  • Children under 8 shouldn't cross the street alone.
  • Don't walk while using a walkman.
  • No horseplay while getting to school.

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School Buses: Know the Danger Zones

School buses are one of the safest ways our children get to school. There are over 23 million children riding in school buses each year to school and outside activities and the death rates for kids in school bus crashes is less than .01%.

Children are at greater risk of being killed as a pedestrian in a school bus loading zone than as a passenger in a school bus.

The area around the bus is regarded as the "danger zone." This zone is the area where children entering and exiting the school bus are most likely to be struck by a passing motor vehicle. Two-thirds of school-aged children die in school bus related crashes each year not as passengers but as pedestrians.

Children should be instructed on the safest way to approach, board and exit the bus safely. It has been a long summer and children may have forgotten the simple safety tips they learned in the previous school year. The greatest potential danger is not riding the bus; the danger exists before children get on and after they get off.

Boarding the Bus

Before the bus arrives:
  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes early.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk. Never run near a school bus.
  • When crossing the street, always look left, then right, and left again. If there are parked cars, cross the street at the nearest crosswalk.

    Getting on the bus:

    • When the bus approaches, stand three giant steps away from the curb.
    • Wait for the bus to stop. The driver will open the door and signal to the children that it is OK to board the bus.
    • If you should drop something near the bus, do not pick it up until you tell the bus driver or the bus has pulled away.
    • When getting off the bus, quickly take your seat and buckle up the seat belt.

    Riding the school bus:

    • Stay in the seat while the bus is moving.
    • Try to keep quiet. No horseplay on the bus so the driver can concentrate on the road.

    Getting off the bus. Learn the three school bus danger zones!

    FRONT- Walk at least 5 giant steps ahead of the bus before crossing in front of it.
    SIDES- Never walk too close to the school bus. Stay at least three giant steps away from the sides of the bus.
    BEHIND- Never walk behind a school bus. The driver is unable to see behind the bus.

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Teen Drivers- Novices Behind the Wheel

For a teen, getting their license is one step closer to adulthood. For parents, it is a fear like no other they have experienced before. Novice drivers are involved in more than 2 million non-fatal traffic crashes (1996-NHTSA statistics). Many parents and teens have heard stories or have experienced the heartache of fatal crashes involving a teen driver.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for adolescents 15-20 years of age causing approximately one-third of all fatalities in this age group. Inexperience, immaturity and greater risk taking behaviors are some of the reasons why young drivers have such poor driving performance.

Illinois passed a graduated licensing law in 1999. rationale for graduated licensing is that it allows for increased time and experience behind the wheel of a car before allowing fully independent privelages for day and night. It allows more practice in developing driving skills over an extended amount of time, leading to greater experience, maturity and judgment. There is greater motivation to practice safe driving skills and behavior by requiring a crash-free/ conviction-free driving performance prior to full licensing.

These 10 steps will help the novice driver become a more responsible driver.

  1. Make sure the teen has adequately met all of the standards before they get their license.
  2. Use the 2-second drivers rule. Always keep at least 2 seconds between you and the car ahead of you. Wait at least 2 seconds at an intersection after the light has changed. Increase the length of time between you and the car ahead of you in bad weather.
  3. Adjust for traffic conditions. Plan to avoid driving in heavy traffic. Arrive 5 minutes before school and leave 10 minutes after school lets out to avoid the "mad dash" out of the school parking lot.
  4. Restrict the new driver to daytime driving at first, then dusk, then advance to nighttime driving.
  5. Never drive mad. Bad grades, fights with boyfriends/girlfriends or mom and dad can negatively impact the new teen drivers performance.
  6. Change radio, cassette or CD's before you start to drive (many new drivers have been involved in crashes when they take their eyes off the road even for one second.
  7. Restrict the number of passengers. The chances of a crash increase as the number of teens in the car increases. Never look at a passenger or over the seat of the car to talk while driving.
  8. Restrict eating and drinking while driving. Both hands should remain on the wheel while driving.
  9. Parents monitor and continually evaluate your teens driving habits and lead by example. Wear your seat belt and follow the rules of the road.
  10. Avoid left turns in front of traffic. Judging the distance and speed of oncoming traffic takes experience and maturity it is best to turn at intersections with a left turn signal in place.

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Bicycle Safety From Head to Toe

Thousands of children ride their bicycles to school every day. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three out of four bicycle crashes results in head injuries. A bicycle helmet is just as much a part of the bike as the handlebars or the wheels but proper maintenance of the bicycle and navigating the streets are equally important.

Bike riders should remember to follow these safety tips when sending your child to school on their bicycle:

  • Make sure the bicycle is in proper working order. The bicycle must be the right size for the rider, the seat is adjusted, the brakes are in proper working order and the tires are inflated correctly.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet. Make sure the helmet is fitted properly before they get on the bike. If you ride recreationally, wear your helmet as well children learn by example.
  • Make sure they wear brightly colored clothing, so motorists and pedestrians will be able to see them better.
  • Keep a watchful eye when navigating the streets.
  • Stop and look for traffic before entering the road. Always stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Ride on the right side of the street with the flow of traffic.
  • Avoid riding at night.
  • Use hand signals when changing lanes or turning. Proceed carefully and obey all traffic signs and signals.
  • Walk your bicycle across busy intersections.
  • Watch out for dangerous obstacles in the streets; wet leaves, puddles of water, loose gravel, broken glass or potholes in the road.

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Carpooling Your Precious Cargo

Carpooling is becoming one of the most popular ways to get our children to school. Many parents often share the responsibility of transporting children to school or after school activities. Whether you are driving a few blocks or a few miles, safety issues are of great importance. Taking on the added responsibility of getting not only your children but other children in the car heightens safety concerns.

Child auto safety is as simple as ABC: Always Buckle Children in the Backseat.

  • Children 12 and under should ride in the back seat. The safest place for children of any age to ride is in the back seat.
  • Children between 40 and 80 pounds should be buckled in a booster seat.
  • Younger children, less than 40 pounds should be restrained in a properly fitted child safety seat.
  • Babies, less than one year of age and less than 20 pounds should be in infant seats in the rear-facing position.
  • The parents of the child you are transporting should provide you with a car seat or booster.
  • Parents should set a good example by buckling up too! Everyone should buckle up with both lap and shoulder belts on every trip.
  • If a child must ride in the front seat, move the front seat back as far as possible from the dashboard and make sure the child is restrained properly.
  • If the seating arrangements in the car cannot safely accommodate all of the passengers, you may need to rearrange the carpooling agreement to include additional drivers.
  • Be aware that it's illegal in all 50 states to have children unrestrained in the vehicle. You are responsible and liable for your children and the other children that ride with you.

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • National Fire Prevention week (10/3-10/9)
    Breakpoint will devote issue to Fire Prevention.

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