Back to School Safety

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michelle Humann
  • Minot AFB Public Affairs
Summer is just about over and once again it's time for kids of all ages to be heading back to school. Going back to school can be stressful for many children, especially if your child is entering school for the first time. There are a lot of expectations for children these days - school dress codes, supply lists, homework and behaving in class are only a few of the responsibilities your child will encounter. But our children are not the only ones who have school responsibilities.

All motorists have adjusted over the summer to the absence of school buses on the road. Now is the time for increased awareness. Be conscious of school buses carrying precious human cargo. When you see a bus with yellow flashing lights, slow down and prepare to stop. When those lights are flashing red, all other vehicular traffic must stop for the safety of the children loading and unloading from the bus. Please do not try to drive around a stopped bus with the red lights flashing; you never know when a child might suddenly appear from around the corner of the bus, placing your vehicle on path for a deadly encounter.

School zones as well are active once again. Re-familiarize yourself with your daily driving patterns. If you have transited an inactive school zone during the summer months, you can expect greatly reduced speed limits during certain times of the day when school is in session.

Slow down! Drivers need time to react to the unexpected in a school zone. Watch carefully at crosswalks which may utilize crossing guards. Obey the crossing guards' orders to stop or proceed; they are monitoring the safe transit of children in their charge.

In neighborhoods near schools, you may see an increase in bicycle and foot traffic of children who live close enough to transit to school by these methods. Always be alert and expect the unexpected. You never know when that bicyclist might decide to weave back and forth on the road or jump from road to sidewalk and back.

Be ready! Just because we all grew up learning to walk facing traffic does not mean that this safety tactic is practiced. Watch for those walking along the sides of the road.

When you drop off your child at school, use this checklist to make sure these hidden hazards aren't waiting to cause injury or death.

· Drawstrings on Jackets and Sweatshirts: There should be no drawstrings on hoods or around the neck. Drawstrings at the waist or bottom of jackets should extend no more than 3 inches to prevent catching in car and school bus doors or getting caught on playground equipment.

· Loops on Window Blind Cords: Cut the loop and attach separate tassels to prevent entanglement and strangulation in window blind cords. One child a month strangles and dies in the loop of a window blind cord.

· Bike Helmets: Buy a helmet that meets one of the safety standards (U.S. CPSC, Snell, ANSI, ASTM, or Canadian), and insist that your children wear the helmet each time they ride their bike. About 900 people, including more than 200 children, are killed annually in bicycle-related incidents, and about 60 percent of these deaths involve a head injury. More than 500,000 people are treated annually in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 85 percent.

· Soccer Goals: Make sure that the athletic director or the custodian anchors the soccer goals into the ground so that the soccer goal will not tip over and crush a child.

· Playgrounds: Check the surfaces around playground equipment at schools and parks to make sure there is a 12-inch depth of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber or fiber material to prevent head injury when a child falls. Each year, more than 200,000 children go to U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipment. Most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground.

Make sure your child's school has up-to-date information on recalled toys and children's products. Schools, daycare providers, and parents can receive recall information by e-mail, or in the regular mail free of charge by calling the CPSC hotline. at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or send the information to or writing to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.