By Erin Tucker
September means school is once again in session, perhaps already for several weeks by now where you live.
Although July and August are the most accident-prone months of the year, the school year brings with it an additional set of risks for your family.
According to Stanford University Children’s Health and School Transportation News, more than 23 million elementary and secondary school children ride a bus to and from school, and each year about 17,000 of them are treated in emergency rooms for bus-related injuries. Thankfully, most of the injuries are minor: sprains, strains, scrapes or bruises. Still an average of seven children die in school bus crashes every year, and 19 are killed getting on and off the bus.
Most victims are aged five to seven, run down in the bus danger zone — 10 feet in front of the bus, 10 feet behind it and 10 feet on either side — hit either by the bus or by a passing vehicle. Afternoons are more dangerous than mornings, and fully 38% of school bus fatalities occur in a one-hour time period: between 3 and 4 PM.
To protect children, some bus companies have added a mechanical arm that keeps children a certain distance from the bus, and some school districts have mounted cameras on their buses to record motorists who fail to stop for a school bus. (Remember, in Iowa it’s illegal to pass a school bus from behind with red or yellow flashing lights.)
Parents can help prevent accidents by keeping a watchful eye on children who are waiting for or getting off a bus and by teaching them to always walk far enough forward to be visible to the driver before attempting to cross the street and never walk behind the bus.
So is it safer to drive your children to school? Statistically, the answer is no.
According to analysis by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration, riding the bus is 20 times safer than being driven by their parents, and it's 50 times safer for students to travel by bus than either driving themselves or riding with other teenagers. Specifically, about 500 students are killed each year in passenger vehicles during the hours of school-related travel — 6 to 9 AM and 2 to 5 PM. Almost 75% of those fatalities involve teenage drivers.
Speaking of teenagers, there are five teen pedestrian deaths every week in the US. While teens aged 15 to 19 make up about 26% of all children, they make up about half of the pedestrian fatalities, much of it caused by distracted walking.
The organization, Safe Kids, conducted a study in 2016, observing 39,000 middle school and high school students and 56,000 drivers in school zones. Unsafe street crossing was observed in about 80% of the students, and unsafe drop-off or pick-up behavior was observed in nearly a third of the drivers! Parents can help by being extra cautious in school zones and by emphasizing to their children how vital it is to stop and look in all directions before crossing any street.
So once again, we say be careful!! And if you need us, we’re here.
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