As responsible parents, you take whatever steps necessary to ensure your child has a safe and productive day at school. Making sure they have breakfast and do their homework are just a couple ways you protect them. Parents of children who walk to and from school or the bus stop are faced with additional challenges.

Know The Risks

To minimize the risks, you need to understand the hazards your child may encounter. At least 30% of all child traffic accident fatalities occur to pedestrians 15 years old and under, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly half of these fatalities occur after 3pm when many kids are walking home from school.

  • Each year, up to 25% of over 14 million unintentional child injuries occur in and around our schools.
  • In 2009, there were 244 pedestrian fatalities of children 14 years old and younger.
  • In 2009, an estimated 13,000 child pedestrians were injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
  • Nearly 74% of child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersection locations.
  • In 2009, 13 pedestrians 15 years old and younger were killed as a result of a bus-related accident.
  • Most children are unable to judge distances and speeds of vehicles until they are at least 10 years old.
  • The majority of child pedestrian injuries occur somewhere other than an intersections, such as mid-block or a parking lot.

Charting The Safest Course

When planning the safest course for children walking to and from school, be sure to choose the most direct route through the most heavily populated areas to minimize the time they are alone. Teach children not to deviate from this route by taking shortcuts through parking lots, fields or wooded areas. Designate safe haven stops along the way, such as police stations, fire departments or trusted neighbors home at that time. Be prepared to walk the route with your child several times before sending them out on their own and point out potential danger areas to avoid. This time provides an ideal opportunity to emphasize additional safe walking tips.

  • Cross the street at corners, in crosswalks and obey all traffic signals.
  • Do not cross in the middle of the street or between parked vehicles.
  • Walk when crossing streets. Never run!
  • Look left, right and left again before attempting to cross the street.
  • Remove headphones when crossing a street.
  • Travel with a group, friend or sibling. Avoid walking alone.
  • Make sure your child knows their home address, home phone number and at least one alternate contact number, such as a parent’s work number.
  • Teach your child how and when to dial 911.
  • Provide change to use a pay phone or a telephone calling card in the event an emergency call becomes necessary.
  • Drop children off as close as possible to the school. Be sure they are safe inside before pulling away.
  • Encourage your child to approach you with questions or fears of their school travel experiences.

From an early age, most children are taught to stay away from strangers. However, when a child walks to or from school alone, most everyone along the way is a stranger. Make sure your child knows the difference between “good” and “bad” strangers. If a child feels threatened, they need to know the right people to turn for safety. Police officers, security personnel, teachers or even store merchants are examples of good strangers. Teach your child to never accept gifts, rides or assistance from a stranger. In the event a stranger approaches your child, their continued safety relies upon staying calm, reacting quickly and finding safety right away.