Back to School Safety

Elementary kids taking the school bus

By District Fire Chief Bruce Angier

As summer comes to a close, back-to-school season will be in full effect. Our streets will become more congested, and our sidewalks will become more crowded as our children walk, bike, or are bussed to school. For some teenagers, this season is also the first time they will get behind the wheel of their cars and commute to school on their own. Teen crashes spike in September of each year as a result, according to the National Safety Council. As we prepare to begin another school year, it is important that our children – and the motorists around them – take proper safety precautions so the school year can be both rewarding and enjoyable for all.

Riding the Bus to School

Parents should plan a walking route to the bus stop choosing the most direct way, preferably sidewalks, with the fewest street crossings. If there is no sidewalk, walk as far as possible to the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. Plan on arriving at the bus stop about five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Children should wait in a safe place away from the road. Children should not play or run while at the bus stop. When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (about six feet) away from the curb and line up away from the street. Be sure that the bus driver can see your child and your child can see the bus driver. If your child leaves something on the bus, he or she should never return to the bus to retrieve it. The bus driver may not see your child and may begin driving away. If your child drops something near the bus, tell the bus driver before your child attempts to pick it up so the driver knows where the child is.

Walking to School

Plan a route that is safe and includes crossing guards at every intersection, if possible. Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. Small children tend to be more impulsive and less cautious around traffic. Carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. Walk with your children for the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. Children should never run out into the streets or cross in between parked cars. Tell your children to stay away from parks, fields and other places where there aren’t many people around. Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers and to run for help if approached by a stranger.

For Other Motorists

Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. During drop off and pick up times, Weston’s schools zones are extremely congested with automobiles. Be prepared for the unexpected as cars pull out into traffic. Motorists should also 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. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.

Investing a few moments to review this information with your children can help them avoid the potential dangers present between your home and their school, and may save their lives. I hope you and your children have a safe and wonderful start to this new school year.

For more information, please contact Weston Fire Chief Bruce Angier at 954-389-2015 or at bruce_angier@sheriff.org.