Schools throughout Tennessee have been back in session for a few weeks, but many parents, teachers, and students are still working out the kinks of getting back into their daily grooves. It’s been an especially difficult transition this year, as many schools have been closed since mid-March.
In addition to adjusting to early mornings, homework, and both in-person and virtual lessons, people are also re-adjusting to their daily commutes. Parents are dealing with heavier traffic volumes, kids are reacquainting themselves with bus riding and school crossings, and other drivers are getting used to reduced speed limits in school zones.
Back to school safety requires everyone who shares Middle Tennessee’s roads working together and being committed to safe driving practices. If you’re a parent, that means ensuring you drive safely and teach your children how to get to and from school safely. If you’re commuting to work, it means being on the lookout for kids and obeying the law in and around school zones.
But most of all, back to school safety is all about protecting kids, whether they’re your own or others. We created this list of risk factors so parents and other drivers can understand the risk factors kids face every school day.
What Risk Factors do Children Face When Getting to School?
Kids face many risk factors on their way to and from school, regardless of how they get there and what they face along the way. These risk factors include:
You may feel that your child is safest when riding in a vehicle with you, your spouse, or another trusted family member or friend. But your child faces risks anytime they’re on the road, regardless of who they’re riding with. That’s why it’s essential to be a safe driver and to practice good driving habits in front of your child. Not only does that keep them safer, but it also creates good habits for them to follow when they ride with others and even when they begin driving themselves.
Make sure your child buckles up every time they get in your vehicle. If your child is under the age of 12, don’t let them ride in the front seat, as the airbag could be dangerous to them if it deploys in a crash. Younger kids should ride in age appropriate restraints, whether that’s boost seats or car seats. When dropping your child off at school, follow the directions at the school and drop them off as close to the entrance as possible.
Students are at risk while waiting for their buses. Ensure your child waits on the sidewalk and leaves plenty of room for the bus as it approaches. Another risk factor involves entering and exiting the bus. Teach your child to use the handrail while entering the bus and to sit down and stay seated while the bus in motion. When exiting, your child should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and to cross the street only at crosswalks.
When riding the bus, ensure your child keeps the aisle clear and doesn’t create or participate in any disruptions that could distract the driver. In addition, ask your child about potential dangers on their bus, including unsafe driving.
Kids who live near their schools can walk to class in the mornings and back home in the afternoons. While this can be convenient for both kids and their parents, it can also be dangerous. Don’t let young children walk to school by themselves. Older children can do so if the route is safe and relatively close to home, but it’s important to walk the route with them a few times so they know the way and don’t get lost. Finally, make sure your child has a cell phone to contact you or call 911 in the event of an emergency.
When walking to school, ensure your child always walks on sidewalks and crosses the street at crosswalks. In addition, make sure they know to never play with their phones or listen to music while walking, as doing so can be distracting and put them at higher risk of accidents and injuries.
Kids who live close to school can also ride their bikes to class. This is a much faster way of getting to school than walking, but it too can pose risks, especially if kids ride on the street. As with walking, don’t allow young children to ride to school—it should be for older kids only. Make sure your child always wears a helmet when riding. Elbow pads and knee pads can also help reduce the risk of injuries when riding.
Teach your child to use hand signals to show their intentions to drivers.Attach reflectors to your child’s bike, and ensure its tires, brakes, gears, and other components are always in good working condition. If your child needs to arrive at school early or stay late, don’t let them ride their bike if they will need to ride in low light or limited visibility, as both are significant risk factors for an accident.
Crosswalks are the only safe place to cross the street, but that doesn’t make kids immune to accidents and injuries when they’re in them. That includes crosswalks in school zones, which may be protected by stop signs, traffic lights, and even crossing guards. Drivers don’t always pay attention, crossing guards can make mistakes or overlook children, and kids may run out in front of vehicles without looking.
Make sure your child knows that crosswalks are only safe when utilized in conjunction with traffic lights and crossing guards. Teach your child to only cross the street when they see a “Walk” signal, and to always look both ways before crossing—even if traffic is supposed to stop for them. In addition, ensure your child obeys crossing guards and NOT the light, even if it turns green or says walk. Crossing guards always dictate right of way in school zones.
Many high schoolers in grade 10 and up have their driver licenses and their own vehicles. That means they can get themselves to and from school—which can be both a blessing and a curse for their parents! Statistically, teens are the most at-risk drivers on Tennessee’s roads, and that’s due to both inexperience and an increased likelihood of risky behaviors. Because of that, many parents are understandably nervous about their kids’ safety when they drive to and from school.
The most important thing you can do is ensure your child always buckles up and avoid distractions. Distracted driving is a nationwide driving epidemic, and it affects young drivers more than others. Make sure they put their phone down as soon as they start their vehicles and they don’t look at it again until they reach their destination. Even hands-free operation can be distracting. Finally, ride along with your teen frequently and watch their driving to ensure they’ve developed good habits and aren’t endangering themselves and others when they drive.
Matt Hardin Law Fights for Injured Kids and Their Families
At Matt Hardin Law, our Nashville auto accident lawyers know that auto and traffic accidents are the biggest injury risk factors for kids in Tennessee. If you and/or your child were injured in a crash, it’s important to have a lawyer on your side who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
You may be facing expensive medical bills that you can’t afford, and we believe you shouldn’t have to pay for those out of pocket when the accident wasn’t your or your child’s fault. Contact us today for a free consultation. We have decades of experience fighting for the rights of injured victims throughout the state, and we want to put that experience to work for you.