The back to school season is in full swing—an exciting time for students as they look forward to entering the next grade level and seeing their friends. For parents, sending children off to school can be a bittersweet mix of enjoyment and safety concerns. Teaching children basic back to school rules and following these safety tips can help you ensure that this school year is a fun and safe one for your family.
Tip 1: Watch How You Pack the Backpack
Backpacks are an essential back to school item and, although very useful, can be potentially harmful if not used correctly, causing shoulder or neck injuries, back pain and muscle and joint strains. To help reduce the chance of injury keep the following in mind when selecting and allowing your child to wear a backpack:
- A loaded backpack should not weigh more than 15 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
- Do not let you child carry a backpack over one shoulder using only one strap—tell them to use both straps instead.
- Use all of the pockets and compartments in the backpack to distribute the weight of the contents more evenly.
- For younger children, consider a backpack that can be pulled on wheels.
Tip 2: Teach and Practice Road Sense
When your child walks or rides a bike to school, it is important to make sure that they have the knowledge they need to keep safe. If your child walks or bikes to school without an adult they should:
- Practice their route in advance and be well-versed on the rules of the road.
- Know what to do if they are approached by a stranger.
- Be taught to avoid walking or biking alone and not to deviate from their practiced route.
- Be prohibited from taking headphones with them to prevent the temptation to listen to music during their journey.
- Wear light or brightly colored clothing to increase their visibility to drivers and, if riding a bike, always wear a helmet.
As a driver yourself, the back to school season is a time to be extra cautious, especially when driving close to schools and the neighborhoods that surround them. Excited children, particularly those who may be walking or biking on their own for the first time can be unpredictable, so go slow and keep an eye out for youngsters who are in the roadway or who may be crossing between vehicles.
Tip 3: Be Aware of Bus Safety
For many children, riding the bus to school is a fun part of their weekday routine. However, preparing children to be safe bus riders is paramount. A few key points to cover with your child when it comes to being aware of bus safety include:
- Never step off the curb until the bus comes to a complete stop.
- Do not move around in the bus. Stay sitting in your seat.
- When getting off the school bus, stay in view of the driver and always cross the street in front of the bus.
- Always check both ways before crossing the street.
For drivers, being aware of added school bus traffic on the road is important—and, remember, in all 50 states it is the law that you must stop when a school bus has its lights flashing
Tip 4: Carpool with Care
Although driving your children to school may seem routine, it is still important to be extra careful during the back to school time period when there are more children, school buses, and hurried drivers on the roads. Consider the following to ensure you and your child passengers make it to and from school safely:
- Make sure each child in your vehicle is securely strapped with their seatbelt. Younger children should have the appropriate car seat or booster seat for their age or size.
- Have each child exit your vehicle using the door on the curbside so they are not stepping out of the car into traffic, or better yet, park and take children into school yourself.
- Wait to leave the school until your child, or all those in your carpool, are safely inside the school building.
- Do not text or talk on the phone while driving. Wait until you arrive at your destination and can communicate without distraction and without risking an accident or injury to you and your young passengers.
Tip 5: Keep It Cool—Until Lunchtime!
If your child is packing their lunch and taking it to school, make sure that any foods included will not be a source of food-borne illness due to lack of refrigeration or improper handling. When packing your child’s lunch keep safety in mind by:
- Washing your hands before you prepare food and reminding your child to wash their hands before eating food.
- Washing cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Using an insulated container with a frozen packet of blue ice or frozen juice box to transport food.
- Trying to pack just the right amount of food that can be eaten at lunch and reminding your child not to “save” perishable food for later in the day.
- Avoiding highly perishable foods such as mayonnaise, lunch meats, milk, and fish unless they can be refrigerated or taken in a container that keeps them cold.
Heading back to school is the perfect time to review these safety tips with your children and to assess your own safety habits, especially when driving in busy school zones and areas where school buses and carpooling parents are present. By taking a few minutes now to prepare for potentially dangerous situations and think ahead to how you can prevent them, you and your family can start the school year off feeling safe and confident.
With school starting back up and getting back into a routine, it may be a good time to give your insurance policies a tune-up. Contact one of our offices today for your specialized insurance check.
Ann Arbor: 734.971.1000
About the Author
Kristen Pearson is the Agency Services Coordinator for the Kemner-Iott group of agencies. Kristen volunteers her time working with Lenawee Habitat for Humanity and at her church. She also is a member of the Zonta Club of Lenawee serving as their Recording Secretary and Membership co-chair.