What do you think of when you hear the term ‘school run’? Is it a lovely opportunity for you to walk together with your children having a good chat? Is a frantic experience trying not to be late every morning? Is a source of worry as you leave for work early and your teens have to get themselves to school?
Whatever your school run is like, safety is vital. Every day, approximately 3 children under the age of 15 are killed or seriously injured on the UK’s roads.
Let me just repeat that: EVERY DAY, 3 children are killed or seriously injured.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 28% of all road accidents happen to those under 19 and peak time for pedestrians to be killed or seriously injured is 3-6pm, just when children are coming out of school.
Above: A really frightening pair of images showing the problems of visibility - there is a child in dark clothing in the second picture I promise, but you have to look really hard to see them!
Whether your children are tiny tots or independent teens, here are my top tips for keeping children of all ages safe on the school run this winter.
- Tiny tots and little kids
One of the most important things you can do as a parent for your child is to start teaching them road safety as soon as they are able to walk. Primary schools do a great job in teaching road safety and do regular refresher sessions each year, so to build on that. Check that your child has understood the rules and use every opportunity you can to practise. Kids love showing their knowledge so ask them to help you choose where to cross the road and how to look for traffic.
- Be a role model
Children are like little sponges and whether you like it or not, they copy everything you do (including all the bad things - just have a quick look at Instagram if you don’t believe me!). No matter how tempting it is, don’t dash across the road in a tiny gap or cross somewhere you can’t see well. I know it’s a pain when you’re in a hurry to walk the extra hundred metres to the crossing and wait for the lights to change, but believe me, in the long run it will pay off.
- Be aware
Teaching your child to be aware of what is going on around them is really important especially when they reach the teenage years and start to travel independently. Constantly looking at a phone screen means they’re not aware of their surroundings nor looking where they’re going, and the bright screen can make it hard for their eyes to adjust quickly to the darkness. Wearing headphones can also be hugely distracting – remind your child to look properly and listen out for traffic and other dangers, particularly as electric cars and bicycles are often almost silent.
- Be visible
The ONS stats show that the most common reason for car drivers colliding with pedestrians is the ‘driver failed to look properly’, so anything you can do to make your child more visible will help a driver to spot them.
Younger children could wear something luminous and reflective like a jacket, tabard or indeed hat. But which teen wanting desperately to fit in at secondary school, wants to wear a bright yellow or pink tabard on the way home?! Consider a Futliit backpack, which has 2 bright white integral LED light strips plus reflective panels to add that extra layer of visibility. Your child can easily turn the lights on when they need to be seen in low light or in the dark.
Above: the Futliit LED backpack in action
- Have a mobile
I know giving young teens a mobile is controversial with some parents. But if your child has a long walk or cycle to school, or a journey that involves public transport, a phone can be vital if things go wrong. Both Android and Apple phones also offer great tracking apps which allow parents to see where their child is at any time (in my house, our app is affectionately known as ‘Stalk My Family’!). Great peace of mind and also very useful if they get off at the wrong stop and you need to come and rescue them!
- Walk or cycle with friends
Ideally, encourage your child to travel with their friends. Not only is there safety in numbers, they get the chance to chat and socialise on the way. This is an important part of having fun and learning how to get along with others.
- When things going wrong
Traffic of course is not the only danger on the school run, especially when teens start travelling independently. Delays or cancellations on public transport are going to happen at some point. Issues with other kids, potentially from other schools, or strangers also start to become a possibility.
Check that your child knows what to do in an emergency. Do they know an alternative route home? Do they know places on the route where they could go to get help? If the worst happened, do they know how to call the police or an ambulance?
Following some of these tips can help you and your family stay safe this winter. You can view more information about the Futliit LED backpack here.
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