Break Point!

Volume 4, Issue 8 View the Archives August, 2001
Break Point Goes Back to School
School Bus Saftey Tips for Parents
Are We Teaching Our Children Aggressive Driving Habits?
Walking Safely to School
Surf's Up - A Guide to Injury Prevention Sites on the Web

Break Point Goes Back to School

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

It is that time of year when parents begin the process of getting their children back to school. They purchase the school supplies and make sure the children have new school clothes. Often parents donít include safety in their list of school preparations.

Preparing your children for the walk to school, the bus ride or the car pool, is just as important as buying their books. Children need to know how to get to school safely and recognize dangerous situations they may encounter to or home from school.

This month BreakPoint will provide articles that pertain to school bus safety, pedestrian safety and riding in motor vehicles.

Surfís Up- The Internet resource article is back!

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School Bus Safety Tips for Parents

As parents, you are an important part of a total safety program for children who travel by school bus. Children need to learn to be safe pedestrians as they walk to and from the bus as well as to be safe riders when they are on the bus. Here's how you can help:

Getting Ready for School

  • Have your children put everything they carry in a backpack or school bag so that they won't drop things along the way.
  • Have them wear bright, contrasting colors so they will be more easily seen by drivers
  • Make sure they leave home on time so they can walk to the bus stop and arrive before the bus is due. Running can be dangerous.

Walking to the Bus

  • Go to the bus stop with a young child and have older children walk in groups. There is safety in numbers because groups are easier for drivers to see.
  • Don't let pre-school children or pets go with your child to the bus stop. They can be in danger near traffic.
  • Practice good pedestrian behavior:
  • Walk on the sidewalk.
  • If there is no sidewalk, stay out of the street.
  • If you must walk in the street, walk single file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as you can.

Stop and look left, right and then left again if you must cross the street. Do the same thing at driveways and alleys. Exaggerate your head turns and narrate your actions so your child knows you are looking left, right and left again.

Waiting at the Bus Stop

  • Don't let your child play running games or push and shove at the bus stop. It is too dangerous near traffic.
  • Make sure your child stands at least 10 feet (5 giant steps) from the road while waiting for the bus. The child will then be out of the way of traffic. Have younger children practice taking 5 giant steps to become familiar with 10 feet.

Getting On and Off the Bus

Make children stay at least 10 feet away from the bus until they begin to enter. Children will then be able to see the driver and the driver can see them.

If children must cross the street to the bus they should cross the street 10 feet (5 giant steps) in front of the bus where they can see the driver and the driver can see them.

Warn the children that, if they drop something, they should never pick it up. Instead, they should tell the driver and follow the driver's instructions. If they bend over to pick up a dropped object, they might not be seen by the driver and could be hurt if the driver pulls away from the stop.

Remind children to look to the right before they step off the bus. Drivers in a hurry sometimes try to sneak by busses on the right.

Teach your children to secure loose drawstrings and other objects that may get caught in the handrail or door of the bus as they are exiting.

Give your child a note or follow your school's procedures if you would like for the child to get off at a stop other than the one they are assigned. The driver isn't allowed to let a child off at another stop without written permission.

If you meet your child at the bus stop after school, wait on the side where the child will be dropped off, not across the street. Children can be so excited at seeing you after school that they dash across the street and forget the safety rules.

Riding the Bus

Remind your children to be good bus riders. They should:

Talk quietly.

Be courteous to the driver and follow the driver's directions.

Keep the aisles clear

Stay seated for the entire bus ride

We want your children to be safe when they travel to and from school. As you help us with the above rules, we hope you will see that school bus safety starts at home.



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Are We Teaching Our Children Aggressive Driving Habits?

According to Behavioral Psychologists, Drís Leon James and Diane Nahl, drivers inherit the seeds of aggressive driving from their parents and the media.

The researchers also conducted a survey that targets aggressive drivers and their driving habits. Their findings are contained in the book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving Steer Clear of Highway Warfare. The Drís agree that aggressive driving is a cultural norm that is generationally transmitted as a habit instilled in children when they ride with their parents and reinforced by repeated media portrayals of drivers behaving badly.

There appears to be a connection between traffic, anger and kidís safety. The Urban Mobility Study conducted at Texas Transportation Institute shows that Chicago is the third most congested metropolitan area in the nation and that the average travel speed on the Illinois highways have decreased 10 miles/hour over the past ten years causing the increase in congestion.

It appears that the longer periods in the car result in an increase in aggressive behavior. When parents drive longer periods with their children, tempers begin to flair. Children arenít usually aware of the severe road rage incidents but are present in everyday occurrences. Children can see the parent loosing their cool and they can hear parents honk the horn, swear or threaten other drivers.

Aggressive driving is becoming a way of life for many of our nationís drivers. Many people are not prepared to manage personal stress and a provocation in traffic. There is a formula for road rage:

More cars, less space, more driver interaction, add cultural norms of disrespect condoning hostility equals aggressive driving and road rage battles.

Parents can change the pattern of aggressive driving and foster good driving habits in their children.

Here are some ways to be less hostile behind the wheel:

Remember it takes two to make a fight. Do not respond to another driverís negative behavior.

If you feel yourself getting angry in traffic count to ten, take deep breaths or hum a favorite tune.

If you fall into a hostile exchange, know damage control learn to swallow your pride and back off.

Do not see other driverís bad habits a personal affront to you. Everyone can make mistakes behind the wheel.

Do not declare war against another driver. This will escalate road rage such as: Honking your horn, offensive hand gestures, yelling, foul language, tailgating, cutting off other drivers, racing or chasing another driver.

Remember it is the parentís responsibility to teach their children good driving habits at a young age. Donít wait until they are of driving age. Children learn very early on what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Do not teach them that good manners and being polite is off limits in the car.



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Walking Safely to School

With the weather still warm enough for children to walk to school, parents should go over safety tips for getting to school safely on foot.

The National SAFE Kids Campaign points out that children are at the greatest risk, due to their impulsive nature and inability to correctly gauge speed, spatial relations, distance and velocity. In addition, children between the ages of 5-9 seem to be at the greatest risk, comprising nearly one-third of child, pedestrian deaths.

Here are some tips to discuss with your child before the first day of school:

Never allow children under 10 to cross streets alone. Parental or adult supervision is essential until the traffic skills and judgment thresholds are reached by each child.

Always model and teach proper pedestrian behavior. Make eye contact with drivers prior to crossing in front of them. Don't assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you.

Cross streets at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks whenever possible.

Instruct children to look left-right-left again when crossing a street and to continue looking as they cross. Children should never run into the street.

Require children to wear retro reflective materials and carry a flashlight at dawn and dusk.

Teach children to walk facing traffic and as far to the left as possible when sidewalks are not available.

Treat alleys and driveways as streets. Drivers have limited vision when they are exiting a driveway or alley.

Teach children to cross the street at least 10 feet in front of a school bus and to wait for adults on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone.

Advocate for the implementation of traffic calming measures, separate walkways, limited curbside parking, reduced traffic in residential and lower speed limits.

Take a walk to the school and look for unsafe areas children may pass on their way. Teach your child how to navigate their way past hazardous situations.

If your children will be walking to school by themselves for the first time, be sure they are reliable and have proven they are mature enough to follow the rules.



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Surfís Up- A Guide to Injury Prevention Sites on the Web

School Bus Safety Web

This site has information for parents and children on school bus safety. Know the ďdanger zonesĒ and read the tips with your children before they go to school.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Parents and children will find lots of information on school bus safety and the children will have lots of fun in safety city. A safety site geared for kids.


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