Tips for Parents and Kids on Staying Safe While Walking to Schoolstay safe while school is session
School is back in session so this means it’s time for a refresher on walking to school safely! Walking to school can have many benefits, including spending more time outdoors and starting the day off right with physical activity.
However, during the back-to-school season, there is always an increase in pedestrian, bicycle, and school bus-related trauma injuries. This leads to this alarming statistic: Every day 44 kids are hit by a car while walking in the United States. That’s 16,000 kids hurt every year. Especially today, drivers are distracted more than ever with texting, tweeting, emails, and taking phone calls. Moreover, the days are getting shorter and darker, making it even more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians.
It doesn’t stop there, either. There is more than obeying stoplights and using crossing guards. Sadly, we also need to keep our kids safe from predators. Consider this; There are nearly half a million registered sex offenders in the U.S. – and 80,000 to 100,000 of them are missing. What does that mean for parents?
Fear not: Walking to school can still be an option for families. It just requires some street smarts and best practices. Whether they’re walking to the bus stop, walking in a parking lot, or walking the entire way to school, all kids are a pedestrian at some point during the school day. There are a few key things that should be kept in mind. Check out these essential tips on walking to school safely.
First, younger children should not walk alone. While every child is different, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10. Second, try to walk in a group. Walking in a group further provides safety in two different ways – a group of children may be more viable to a driver than a single student, and it provides personal safety against a predator wishing harm upon a child walking alone.
If it’s not possible to walk in a group, then walk with at least one friend.
Make sure your child wears light-colored or bright clothing (or has otherwise reflective gear such as a backpack) so they are more visible to drivers. Dark clothing plays a major part in pedestrian vs. vehicle accidents. If you are walking in the dark morning or dusk, carry a flashlight. Drivers may not always be able to see you or are distracted themselves.
Teach them that even though the pedestrian always has the right of way, they shouldn’t assume that a driver has seen them. Always make eye contact with the driver before you cross a street so that both parties are aware of each other.
Choose the Safest Route
Parents should choose and map out the safest route to school with the most crosswalks. It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners. Discuss possible routes with your child and pick the one that works the best.
Parents should also remind their children to stick to the agreed route and to not take secluded and possibly dangerous shortcuts that friends may suggest on the way to school. Always plan to use the most straightforward, public, and well-lit route to school.
Talk to your children about staying attentive while walking to school. Teach kids to put down their phones and turn down or off headphones (or consider not using them) when crossing the street. Watch out for cars at every driveway and intersection on your route to school. Keep an eye out for drivers in parked cars, because they may be getting ready to move.
Unfortunately, you cannot stop with just a warning your children to watch for moving vehicles.
There are Sexual Predators Along School Routes
The Statistics are Staggering:
There are more than 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America.
1 in 3 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Over 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way.
1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the Internet before the age of 18.
What does this mean for you and your children? It means always be aware of any suspicious vehicles that may be following you or getting ready to approach. Emphasize to never, ever hitchhike or take rides from people that are not arranged by your parents. Stress to your child that even if they know them, do not accept a ride if has not been previously arranged by their parent.
Teach your children (and yourself) to think defensively. Although stranger abductions are rare, they are going to be the “Worst of the worst”, according to Robert Lowery, senior executive of the Missing Children Division of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. If someone calls out to them, approaches or stops them to ask for directions or help to find a lost pet, teach your child to NEVER approach the vehicle and rather to step away, yell “NO!” and leave the area immediately.
Parents and children should continue to report suspicious actions or vehicles to the authorities, as “there are oftentimes successful abductions preceded by these attempts.”
Be a Good Role Model
Start early by teaching your child about safety at an early age. Take them on frequent walks and talk about possible situations. You can be a good role model for your child by following your own advice. Put down your phone and headphones when walking around cars. Encourage your child to be especially aware of cars that are turning or backing up. Teach them to look for turn signals and reverse lights. Let them know it’s not OK to run out in the street between parked cars where other drivers can’t necessarily see them. Most importantly, stress to avoid engaging with strangers and to report any suspicious interaction immediately.
Remember that these tips are not just for kids, either. All of these tips apply to adults as well. Staying aware of your surroundings and possible threats, along with the proper response, will always be necessary, no matter how old you are. Are you as aware as you can be when driving or walking?
Pew Pew Guru is a family-owned business, we teach classes, offer self-defense products (including non-lethal), that allow you to be stewards of your environment, so you don’t have to be the victim in any domain. Be safe, feel secure, and live your life freely.
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