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Baystate Children's Hospital and Springfield Police Department remind drivers to take it slow as the school bell rings

August 31, 2015
School Bus

Baystate Children’s Hospital is teaming up with the Springfield Police Department to remind drivers on the road to take extra precautions as children return to school.

“We will have extra patrols on duty during this first week of back-to-school. They will be monitoring the driving habits of those on the road as children walk to school and buses pick up and drop off students. Please make sure you slow down at all crosswalks and intersections as pedestrian traffic increases, especially between the hours of 6-9 a.m.,” said Sgt. John Delaney, public information officer, Springfield Police Department.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, safety begins before children arrive at school and it doesn’t end until they arrive safely back home.

The sad statistics – some 815 students die annually and 152,250 are injured during regular travel between school and home, figures that do not include special activity trips and other school-related journeys.

Parents and drivers need to do their part to make sure the 2014-2015 school year is a safe one for schoolchildren everywhere.

“Each back-to-school season, it’s important for both parents and children to do their homework and remember to review safety,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator of Safe Kids of Western Massachusetts, headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital.

For kids who walk to school or to a bus stop, Safe Kids USA recommends that parents walk the route to school with students before the start of the new school year. They should assess any hazards and select a route with the least number of traffic crossings. Safe Kids safety experts suggest reminding kids to:

• Cross the street with an adult until they are at least 10 years old.

• Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

• Never run out into the streets or cross in-between parked cars.

Also, drivers are reminded to:

• Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones.

• Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.

• Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.

• Watch for children on and near the road in the morning and after school hours.

• Reduce any distractions inside your car, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and don’t talk or text while driving.

Riding the bus to school brings its own safety prerogatives, too.

Children need to be educated on the proper way to ride the bus by staying seated, waiting to move until the bus comes to a complete stop, and making sure to behave while on the bus by not throwing objects and keeping their head and arms inside the bus at all times.

“Many injuries occur when children are boarding or exiting a school bus because of a blind spot that obstructs the driver’s view. Children should be told to cross at least 10 feet in front of the bus and to always exit from the front of the bus. They should also use the handrails to avoid falling,” said Summers.

“Children waiting for the bus or getting off the bus should be reminded to stay out of the street and avoid fooling around,” she added.

As for parents driving their child to school, they need to make sure he or she stays fastened by a functioning seat belt that is appropriate for their age. Also, children should be dropped off and picked up in a non-congested area as close to the school as possible so that they don’t have to cross the street. Always make sure they enter and leave the car on the curb side, and watch them until they enter the school building.

“For children who are old enough to ride their bicycles to school, by law they must wear a helmet,” said Summers, who noted children should not ride on the road without adult supervision until about the age of 10.

“Remember, children look to their parents as role models who at all times should exhibit safe behaviors that all children should follow,” said Summers.

For more information about back to school safety, visit www.safekids.org or call the western Massachusetts chapter of Safe Kids at 413-794-6510. For more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit baystatehealth.org/bch.