Our view: Teach your children well

As Moffat County children head back to school, the biggest test they face may not be in the classroom, but on the journey to and from school.

Craig is not known as a pedestrian-friendly city and the lack of sidewalks in certain areas of town means kids are sharing the road with cars.

Local police have already issued a warning that they'll be stepping up patrols near school zones and enforcing speed limits.

According to state injury prevention specialists, pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children 5 to 14. Almost 1/4 of the children between 5 and 9 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.

We urge drivers to exercise caution around schools -- especially before and after school when students are on the streets.

As Craig Police Sgt. Bill Leonard said, children aren't always on the lookout for cars, so drivers should be vigilant and cautious near schools.

But parents can do their part by making sure their children understand the importance of common-sense rules, such as looking both ways before crossing a street.

Barbara Bailey, an injury prevention specialist with the Colorado SAFE KIDS Coalition, which is based at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, urges parents to review crucial safety tips with children -- whether walking, riding a bike, driving with parents or catching a bus.

Here are some of Bailey's suggestions:

n Children younger than 10 should never cross the street alone.

n Parents should choose the safest route to school, and practice walking it with their children before school begins and until the children demonstrate traffic safety awareness. Look for the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. They should take the same route every day and avoid shortcuts.

n Teach children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings. A flashing "walk" sign is not an automatic "go" signal. Make certain children look in all directions before crossing the street. Teach them to stop at the curb or edge of the road and to look left, right and left again for traffic before and while crossing the street.

n Teach children not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs. Darting into the street accounts for the majority of child pedestrian fatalities.

n Teach children to cross the street at a corner or a marked crosswalk. Make sure children allow plenty of time to cross. Teach them to walk, not run, across intersections. Tell children to obey adult crossing guards or safety patrols at monitored intersections.

n Arrive at a bus stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives.

n Stay out of the street while waiting for the bus.

n Avoid horseplay.

n Cross the street at least 10 feet, or 10 giant steps, in front of the bus.

n When boarding or leaving the bus, children should always walk in single-file, use the handrail to avoid falls and wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before leaving their seats.

n Students should wait for parents on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone.

n Keep heads and arms inside the bus at all times.

n When riding to school, wear helmets at all times to prevent head injuries, are the leading causes of death in bicycle crashes.

n Follow the rules of the road. Children who ride bicycles to school should be taught to follow the rules of the road that apply to all vehicles. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against traffic; use appropriate hand signals; respect traffic signals; and stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked.

n Never let children ride on the road without direct adult supervision until age 10. Cycling should be restricted to sidewalks and paths until a child is age 10 and able to show how well he or she rides and observes the basic rules of the road. Parental and adult supervision is essential until traffic skills and each child reaches judgment thresholds.

n Plan a safe cycling route with your children, and ride it with them.

n If driving your child to school, use child safety seats and safety belts correctly every time you and your children ride. Remain buckled up until exiting the vehicle. Children who have outgrown a convertible seat should graduate to a booster seat until the vehicle's safety belts fit correctly, usually when they are 8 years old or about 80 pounds.

n Allow extra time in the driver's schedule to avoid driving too fast when late. Arrange to pick up children at a safe spot away from the congestion of traffic around the school.

n Drop off children in a safe location so that they do not have to cross the street.

Observing these simple rules can ensure that a child's safety won't be at the mercy of a driver's reflexes.

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