Safety is paramount when going back to school

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Tobin
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: The mention of the nonprofit organization Safe Kids USA does not constitute endorsement or affiliation by the U.S. Air Force or the 62nd Airlift Wing.)

The term "back to school" often conjures thoughts of great deals on new backpacks, clothes and notebooks. It is often characterized as a fresh start for kids and a much-needed break for some parents.

The term also stands as a reminder of the need for driver safety.

As the amount of children walking in and around streets on their way to and from school becomes greater, a few tips for both drivers and walkers can help mitigate those dangers greatly.

According to Safe Kids USA, a nationwide organization working to prevent childhood injury, 61 kids are hit by cars every day in the U.S., and every one of those incidents is preventable.

To help prevent those, they've compiled a list of top tips for drivers and pedestrians.

Tips for drivers:
  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones
  • Give pedestrians the right of way at a crosswalk
  • Most walkers are injured mid-block, not at intersections, so watch out for kids who may dart into traffic
  • Using cell phones, even hands-free, makes it harder for drivers to be alert to walkers
Tips for walkers:
  • It is more difficult for young children to judge speeds and distances of vehicles, so they should only cross the street with an adult
  • Distraction among drivers is at an all-time high, so try to make eye contact with drivers before stepping onto the road
  • When crossing a street, walk, don't run
  • Do not walk with headphones
The increased amount of children on the roads is not the only potentially dangerous aspect of driving this time of year, said Lt. Col. Scott D. Berndt, 62nd Airlift Wing chief of safety.

"Fall brings the return of the famous Pacific Northwest weather, reduced hours of visibility and kids transiting to and from school," said Berndt. "The focus on safety is imperative."

Many drivers will be heading to and from work at dawn and dusk during the early months of fall.

"This means at one moment you could be staring directly into blinding sunlight and minutes later you are in the dark," said Kenneth Heath, 62nd AW chief of ground safety.

It is especially important to drive slower and keep an eye out for pedestrians during those times of day, said Heath.

Keeping these tips in mind when preparing for a ride to work or a walk to school should help keep the roads a little safer for everyone.