Safety concerns start on the way out the door in the morning and continue until students arrive at their homes at the end of the day, which for some students with after-school sports or activities can be as late as 6 or 7 pm. Our colleagues at The American Academy of Pediatrics cite research from The National Research Council Transportation Research Board, Committee on School Transportation Safety that broke down the ways that students travel to and from school during the regular school day. These modes of travel included passenger vehicle with adult driver, 45%; school buses, 25%, other buses, 2%; passenger vehicle with teen driver, 14%; bicycle, 2%; and walking, 12%. Not included in these figures are transportation after regular school hours or for extracurricular activities. These after hours trips are often done after dark and can involve longer distances (to sporting events or tournaments outside of the home district); they have a disproportionately high occurrence of crashes.
What can parents do to make travel to and from school safer?
- Make sure young children are accompanied by a parent, caretaker, or responsible older sibling while walking to or from school or the bus stop
- Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground and that running around, which can often end up in the adjacent road, can be dangerous
- Dawn and dusk are the most difficult times of day for motorists to see pedestrians. As the days shorten, make sure your child is wearing at least some reflective clothing so he or she is highly visible
- Work with your PTA or other group to make sure your school has implemented appropriate safety measures -- crossing guards, dismissal and arrival procedures, and safety training as part of the curriculum -- to provide children age-appropriate safe travel
- Support graduated driving licences for teens. Teenage drivers should pass not just the State road test, but Mom or Dad's road test as well. That may mean that driving privileges are delayed until a teen demonstrates sufficient maturity and judgment to understand that the consequences of distracted driving can be deadly.
- Model good driving practices yourself; never text or use your phone or otherwise drive with distractions and always wear seat belts. We've written before about steps to safer teen driving. Speed, having passengers in the car, and failure to wear seat belts are some of the driving practices that pose the most risk to teens.