Start of School Year Most Hazardous Time for Bus Riders, Child-Pedestrians and Passengers
This week thousands of students of government and private schools started their new academic year, returning to classes after the long summer break. Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Hamad Trauma Center is urging road users to take extra precautions, noting that the beginning of the school year and the higher volume of cars, buses, and pedestrians means road users are at an increased risk for motor vehicle crashes and injury.
Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of the Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP), the community outreach arm of HMC’s Trauma Surgery Section, said the beginning of the new school year signals a change to the daily routine of many road users. He said all drivers must be more aware of new road environments, and in control of, their speed at all times, but particularly during this time of year.
“The start of the school year is the most dangerous time on neighborhood streets and in school zones for child-pedestrians, passengers, and bus riders. There is an increase in the number of children walking, riding bikes, and cars stopping to drop off passengers. Driving quickly through these areas is not only prohibited, as most schools have a controlled speed limit in a school zone, but it is also very dangerous for children,” said Dr. Consunji.
Dr. Consunji says it is vital for motorists to obey traffic rules by complying with school zone speed limits as well as designated parking and drop-off regulations. He also highlighted the importance of being aware that the presence of school buses and vans means that there will be children crossing or walking in the street, especially in residential compounds and neighborhoods. These reminders apply to all motorists and road users, regardless of whether you transport children or not. It is a whole society’s responsibility to provide a safe road environment for these children, so all of us must do our part.
’Always walk around your vehicles before backing out of your driveway or leaving a garage’ Dr. Consunji stressed. This is especially true for parents of young children, as there have been a number of unfortunate ‘backover’ injuries with children injured by their own parent’s vehicles.
“We caution parents to be realistic about their child's pedestrian skills. Children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic. It is recommended that only children older than ten years of age walk or bike to school without adult supervision,” said Dr. Consunji.
“If children are walking or biking to school, it’s also a good idea to provide bright-colored clothing, or reflectors so motorists can easily see them. Make sure your child’s bike and helmet are the correct size. He or she should be able to straddle the bike with both feet on the ground and their helmet should fit snugly, sitting low on the forehead. Helmets should always be worn with the chin strap fastened,” noted Dr. Consunji.
Dr. Consunji says the beginning of the school year is an opportune time for families to turn their attention to safety, be it developing home safety plans in case of emergency or reviewing safe road practices. This is especially true for newly arrived families, those in new schools or faced with a changed road environment or route to school
“All children must be properly restrained in the rear seat. They must be in a car seat that is appropriate for their age and size and properly restrained, including when traveling on a school bus (if available),” said Dr. Consunji. “If your child travels by bus, it is important to review school bus safety such as waiting for the bus to stop before approaching the curb, only boarding and exiting at designated locations, and remaining seated while the bus is in motion.”
Dr. Consunji noted that to raise safe children, parents themselves must be role models, i.e. always wearing a seatbelt, not texting or talking on mobile phones while driving, wearing a helmet when biking, and obeying traffic rules like driving under the speed limit and only crossing the road at designated crosswalks.
“Our children are always watching what we do and they soak in all that information like little sponges. Children and young adults are among the most vulnerable road users and parents are ideally placed to teach their children about road safety behaviors,” said Dr. Consunji.