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Walk Right: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe on the Way to School

Depending on what era you grew up in, you may have been part of a large contingent of students that walked to class on a daily basis – or as time went on and buses became more widespread, you may have been one of a smaller number that walked because of the proximity of your home to the school.

Nowadays, a huge percentage of children have the safety of a school bus to protect them during their commute to school in the morning. But not everyone is quite that lucky – and if your children walk or ride to school, keeping them safe is a top priority. So how do you go about tackling this essential task?

Safety In Numbers

If you’re not able to accompany your child to and from school every day, one of the best things you can do is to ensure that there’s someone who can. Whether it’s other parents or their peers (mostly depending on their age), traveling together can drastically enhance the safety of everyone involved – from simply increasing their visibility to drivers and other pedestrians, to deterring interference from anyone with bad intentions.

Creating Car-Smart Habits

One of the best ways you can keep your child safe on their walk/ride to school is to instill some simple, common sense ideas that will eventually become habits. Waiting at crosswalks, stopping and looking before crossing streets, checking driveways and intersections for turning vehicles, etc. can all go a long way toward avoiding any mishaps.

Dressing For Safety

Especially with days getting shorter, some kids will be walking or riding to school in the early hours of the morning before the sun fully rises. During this dim pre-dawn time, visibility can be reduced just as much (or more, accounting for glare from the sun) as it is at nighttime. With that in mind, kids should wear brightly colored clothing that creates a contrast against the shadows of the early morning and ensure they are visible to drivers.

Bicyclists have a few extra safety items to consider – including helmets and reflective-wear. Headlamps can help identify hazards in the road, such as fallen branches or broken glass. And kids heading to school on skateboards and the like should have knee- and elbow-pads in addition to protective headwear, to help protect them in case of a fall.

Being Loud (But Not Obnoxious)

Kids already have a tendency to be loud, especially when they’re grouped together. But we’re not talking about encouraging your children to make random noises – that will happen all on its own. Instead, encourage them to be vocal in regard to safety, in order to avoid collisions and accidents with other walkers, cyclists, and joggers. If your child is on a bike, teaching them to call out “on your left” as they pass – or installing a bell on their bike – can help them alert others to their presence.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Two big benefits of doing a practice run with your child before sending them on their daily commute to school? First, it’s critical to make sure they know the best way to get to school – and by best, we mean the fastest and safest route to travel. And second, you can help them identify any potentially recurring hazards, such as especially busy intersections or areas with low visibility. From there, you can have a conversation with your child and discuss habits that can help ensure they arrive safely home at the end of each day.