Drive Trauma Prevention with Traffic Safety
We are a society in motion, and we rely on transportation – bikes, cars, buses and trains – to get us where we need to go. If your family is like most, you hit the road almost every day for school, work, church, ball practice or maybe a few groceries.
Some traffic along the way may be unavoidable, but critical injuries aren’t. Teaching your kids to play it safe around motor vehicles is the best form of injury prevention.
Keeping Kids Safe Around Cars
As an extension of the University Hospital trauma team, the pediatric safety experts in our Injury Prevention department are committed to all forms of traffic safety. Our health educators teach kids, teens and parents how to anticipate and avoid potentially dangerous situations in and around motor vehicles. We focus on practices that make sidewalks, bus stops and driveways safer for your whole family.
Under certain circumstances, parked vehicles can present as many potential safety hazards as moving vehicles. Make sure your efforts to keep your kids safe at home extend to your driveway. For parents, this means taking – and repeating – these safety practices before you get in the car:
- Take a few seconds to walk around your vehicle to check for children and pets
- Remove any bikes or toys that could attract kids before you start the engine; it’s hard to remove items while you are starting a vehicle.
- Find a safe, easily visible spot for children to wait nearby any time you are coming or going in your vehicle without them
- Identify a safe play area with your child that's far from parked or moving vehicles.
- Firmly hold the hand of each young child with you when around moving vehicles, driveways, parking lots and sidewalks.
Whether your kids leave home on a bicycle or on foot, some of the same basic safety rules apply:
- Make yourself visible to drivers, especially near dark
- Make eye contact with drivers at intersections
- Look left, right and left again before entering a street
Beyond those, however, walking near roadways requires your kids to observe a distinct set of safety precautions. Walking sometimes lends itself to distraction and children often pick up some bad habits that can be dangerous.
For starters, instruct your kids to always use sidewalks, cross at street corners and use crosswalks. Children under 10 should cross with an adult. If there are no sidewalks, encourage children to walk on the grass, not the road.
Next, talk with your children, especially teens, about the importance of reducing distractions caused by electronic devices.
Here are a few guidelines to stress:
- Stay on the sidewalk and walk against traffic
- Look up when using cell phones and electronic devices
- When making a call, stop walking and find a safe area to talk
- When using headphones, take them out before crossing the street
- Put your phone down when crossing an intersection.
- Look left, right, then left again before crossing and stay alert for distracted drivers.
Teach your children to follow these recommendations on the sidewalk as a great first step toward preventing critical injuries.
Reach out to Safe Kids San Antonio to participate in International Walk to School Day or Walk this Way activities by calling 210-358-4295.
Drivers should use an abundance of caution near bus stops by following the speed limit and slowing down in school zones. This means you should also slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights.
When your kids are ready for school, it’s important to talk about bus safety even before their first ride. Make time to walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. While you wait, talk through these important bus safety tips.
Teach your kids to:
- Stay three giant steps back from the curb until the bus stops.
- Make sure children do not have anything dangling from their backpack, or untied shoe strings that could get caught up in the school bus door. This leads to rollover injuries and death.
- If you drop something, tell the bus driver and make sure the bus driver can see you before you pick it up.
- Always get on and off the bus one at a time.
- Never walk behind the bus.
- If you need to cross the street, cross in front of the bus, never behind. Take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the driver and cross when the driver says it’s okay. Look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
- Use handrails to get on or off the bus.
Reach out to Safe Kids San Antonio to request a presentation to your local PTA, school administration or neighborhood association on the importance of school bus safety by calling 210-358-4295.
Vehicle trunks are a dangerous place for children. Here are some tips to keep your trunk off limits and teach children to be cautious:
- Lock your vehicle, including doors and trunk, when you’re not using it. Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.
- Teach kids that trunks are for storing items and are not safe places to play.
- Show children 5 and older how to locate and use the emergency trunk release.
- Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.
When your teen is ready to start driving or ride with other young, new drivers, talk to them about making responsible choices:
- Be a good example – Eliminate distractions by not using your cell phone or texting while driving. Know how to read maps and find locations.
- Ride with experienced drivers – Only get in the car with someone you know is a responsible driver, especially someone who has not been drinking or doing drugs.
- Oldest kids ride in the front – Let the older kids sit in the front passenger seat and make it a rule that kids younger than 13 years of age sit in the back.
- Carpooling – Make sure you have enough seating positions and booster seats for every child in your car, and that kids enter and exit curbside.
- Passenger safety – Check out the Countdown2drive program for a passenger agreement and guidelines for preteens and teens tailored for your family.