Take note, kids are going back to school

Central Florida schools resume classes this month and that means it’s time for a refresher course on street safety for children on foot and bikes. OK, parents, please grab a pen and notepad and take notes. There will be a quiz immediately following this lecture.

Before school starts, map out the route your schoolchildren will follow to and from the bus stop, or to school on foot or bike.  Walk/ride the route with your children several times before school starts, as well as the first few days of school. Make sure they are familiar with the route and understand safe/proper street crossing techniques before allowing them to go out on their own.

        Furthermore, teach your kids to:

  1. ALWAYS walk on sidewalks when possible. If no sidewalks are present, walk against the direction of traffic so they can see oncoming vehicles.
  2. Use marked bike lanes or trails set away from traffic.
  3. ALWAYS look left, right, left (and over their shoulder for turning vehicles) before stepping/riding into the road, even if they have the signal to proceed.
  4. Cross only, when possible, at designated school crossings and/or at marked crosswalks.
  5. Wear reflective materials and/or bright clothing if they’re walking/biking in darkness, and carry a flashlight. If they’re riders, make sure their bikes are equipped with a headlight and rear flashing light or reflector.
  6. ALWAYS wear a bicycle helmet when they’re riding. It’s required by law for bicyclists under 16. Click here to learn how to fit a bike helmet securely and comfortably.
  7. Put away headphones and cell phones while biking or walking. They need to be able to hear oncoming traffic, car horns, sirens, and be aware of their surroundings.
  8. Walk and bike with friends, when possible.
  9. Not succumb to peer pressure to take risks. Tell them to encourage their friends to follow the same safe walking/biking practices so everyone is on the same page.
  10. Carry in their backpacks a list of important phone numbers in case of emergencies.

There are some myths you should dispel while you’re teaching your kids to be safe out there. For example:

  • MYTH — A green light means it’s safe to cross.
  • FACT – Not necessarily so. Motorists don’t always obey signals. Tell your kids to look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for moving traffic, and then cross ONLY if it is safe to do so while still looking left and right. Tell them to watch out for cars making right turns on red.
  • MYTH — If they see the driver, the driver sees them.
  • FACT — The driver may not see them, or a stop sign or red light. Tell them to make sure the driver stops before they cross the street at a crosswalk.

If your children are bus riders, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offers an extensive list of safety tips that you should review.

OK, class, instead of giving you a quiz we’re going to let your children put you to the test. Good luck!

Drive like a parent of schoolchildren  

Our final lesson is directed at you, dear parents. After seeing the kids off to school, you likely will head to work, turning your mindset from doting parent to motorist. You’ll see school buses and children on foot and bikes on your commute, so be the kind of driver you would want other drivers to be when your kids are going to school and home.

  1. Be aware of signage that indicates school crossings or reduced speed zones. Reduce speeds accordingly and be vigilant in watching for children who might step or ride into the road unexpectedly.
  2. Obey the commands of crossing guards. They ensure the safe commute of students walking and riding to and from school. Give students the space they need to cross safely.
  3. Don’t stop in crosswalks and block pedestrians’ access to it.
  4. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. School bus stops and increased traffic will create delays in your commute. While these delays occur throughout the school year, they are typically worse during the first 2-3 weeks of school while everyone is adjusting to new schedules and routes.
  5. Avoid distractions! Phone calls and texts can wait.
  6. If you’re driving your child to school, use the designated parent loop. It’s unsafe to let car passengers out in a roadway and/or to have them walk between parked or stopped cars in congested areas.
  7. Passing a stopped school bus is dangerous and most likely illegal. Know the law and follow these diagrams, courtesy of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Break the law without causing injury or death and you could get a citation, four points on your driver’s license and a fine ranging from $165 to $265. In July 2017, Florida enacted a law cracking down on motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus, resulting in the injury or death of another person.

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