It will soon be time to put the beach balls away and get the backpack ready! School is starting next month for most of Eastern New York. We hope that everyone has had time to enjoy the wonderful summer days, but now it’s time to get back into a safe and healthy school year routine. Everything from getting a good night’s rest to waking up early to traveling to and from school and beginning sports practice again will require a shift in many kids’ schedules. The Red Cross wants everyone to have a good start to the school year and offers these tips to help make the trip back to the classroom a safe one.
SCHOOL BUS SAFETY
- If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
- Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
- Teach your student to board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed them to get on. If your student drops something near the bus, tell them to alert the drive and not to lean down to pick it up, as the driver may not be able to see them.
- Kids should board their bus only, never an alternate one.
- Make sure your student always stays in clear view of the bus driver and never walks behind the bus.
GETTING TO SCHOOL BY CAR, BIKE, ON FOOT
- If children go to school in a car, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
- If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not text or make calls with their cell phone and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
- For students who ride their bike to school, they should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as traffic is going.
- When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely.
- Remember there is safety in numbers. Arrange for kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate rather than walking alone.
DRIVERS, SLOW DOWN!
Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off.
Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. This includes two and four-lane highways. If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping. Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.
In New York State, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently signed legislation allowing public school districts in New York to install stop-arm cameras on school buses in order to catch drivers who unlawfully pass a stopped school bus and ensure the safety of New York’s students. Read more about this legislation here.
PLAN FOR EMERGENCIES
It’s important to know and familiarize yourself with what the emergency plan is at your child’s school in case a disaster or unforeseen event occurs. Develop a family emergency plan so everyone will know who to contact and where to go if something happens while children are at school and parents are at work. For help creating your plan, visit redcross.org/prepare.
Keeping all students safe is a primary concern, but there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time:
- Make sure your child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult, and how to dial 9-1-1.
- Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from anyone they don’t know.
Parents of teens should also talk to their students about internet safety. Remind older children that they should NEVER reveal personal information (name, address, phone number, email address, school name, portal password, after-school job, or where they hang out) on their social media profiles or to strangers online. If they want to meet someone face to face, they should ALWAYS tell you first, they should ALWAYS bring along a trusted adult, and they should ALWAYS meet in a public place.
For more information on internet safety visit, https://www.connectsafely.org/social-web-tips-for-teens/
The start of a new school year is an exciting time. With a little knowledge and some advance planning, we can all help our kids get to school and home again safely. The American Red Cross would like to wish all students, families and teachers the best of luck with the new school year!