Safety in the Streets

Well, here we are again- poised at the start of a new school year. Some of you have already started the 2013-14 school session and others are watching it approach at an amazing pace.

I find myself wondering, as I do each year, how the summer passed by so quickly. Sure we still have some weeks of summer ahead, but for all intents and purposes, a family with school-aged children finds that summer ends when school begins.

Have you ever noticed how the pace of the whole community is somehow tied into school being in session or out on break?  In the fall businesses have back-to-school sales. In the spring they have outdoor play equipment sales.

Parents put in for vacation time at their place of business to coordinate with their child’s summer break. Food eateries near open-campus high schools hire more lunchtime help during the school year. And once school starts everyone seems to drive with an eye out for kids on their way to school in the morning and going home in the afternoon.

At least we hope everyone has an increased sense of caution around schools. The speed zone around most schools is 15 mph. And with good reason. Kids are the best at darting out from between cars, forgetting to look both ways, chasing a ball into the street, etc.

It’s not that they don’t want to follow rules it’s just that they have a tendency to get caught up in the moment. It’s important to teach- and re-teach– our kids street safety rules. But I feel it’s just as important to remind the drivers in our cities that school is back in session and they need to crank their vigilance up a notch.

A good PR campaign with reminders about school speed zones, kids walking and riding bikes, the hours that school is in session, etc., would be a boon in every community.

When I worked at Hawthorne School, a group interested in safety gave “Sidewalk Sammy” figures to each elementary school in town. By placing these neon bright plastic figures with the word “Slow” emblazoned across their chests at crossings or near parking lots, drivers were alerted to the presence of children.

A side note here on Sidewalk Sammy. One day upon entering the staff parking lot after lunch, I noticed our usual neon colored, silent, quasi-staff member wasn’t on patrol on the corner where he should be.

Once I got to my desk I began trying to figure out why he had gone missing. Before I could determine anything I got a call from a police officer asking if Sammy was missing!  Apparently Sammy had decided to go joyriding with a couple of young people who loaded him into the back seat and took him for a spin.

Well, all’s well that ends well, and Sammy was returned to us within the hour so he could once again take up his post on the corner. Whew! Disaster averted.

Anyway, my point in even mentioning Sidewalk Sammy is that there are numerous ways that a school community can draw attention to the fact that little people are out and about. Does your child’s school have a reader board outside on the school grounds? A week or two before school starts you could volunteer to post a reminder about the first day of school and cautioning drivers to watch for children.

Radio stations are usually more than happy to make public service announcements. A simple message from your Parent Council or PTA stating basic traffic safety rules around schools would reach a wide audience and help make the area around your school safer for students- whether they are pedestrians, bikers or car-poolers.

News media such as newspapers and television are also a good way to reach large audiences. Perhaps you can find a community organization that would be willing to sponsor ads reminding drivers of the upcoming school year and basic traffic safety. A message can actually say a lot in a few words if it’s put together correctly.

I’m sure there are many more ideas you can come up with for ways to spread the word about traffic safety around your child’s school. Just put on your thinking cap and start pumping out those ideas! The key here is to get the word out to as many people as possible: Kids are back in school. Be careful while driving.

Something I found out that I didn’t know before I started writing this post is that August has been designated as Back to School Safety Month. I’ve been focusing on traffic safety but, as you know, there are many aspects of Back to School Safety.

The National Safety Council has a page dedicated to safety tips for you and your children. It’s chock-full of valuable information on various safety issues.

If you’d like a simpler, one-sheet list of traffic safety tips that you can print off (and maybe post around town), Warren County in New York has put together a nice one. You can click here to access it. [Oh, boy, I’m glad I proofread this. I just wrote you can lick here to access it. HaHa, we don’t need you all having slobbery screens from licking to access a link!]

Well, on that silly note I’ll leave you today. I hope you and your children find yourselves enjoying these last weeks of summer before school starts. Pull the fun out of every minute you spend together!


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