Walking to school or to the school bus stop is the norm for many children in the UK, particularly when they are secondary school age. For many children, walking to school is a necessity but it’s also a great way to work some exercise into the day and catch up with friends en route, or just listen to some music.
Walking is actually a fantastic opportunity for everyone first thing in the morning: a boost of sunlight is really good for your internal clock and even a short walk can leave everyone feeling more energised, awake and ready to learn. Plus, by walking you are automatically lessening congestion on the roads and decreasing the amount of air pollution in our skies.
I set up Futliit in 2022 to try to make my daughters safer on the way to and from school. Our story started when our eldest daughter started secondary school and had to walk to and from the school bus. We lived in rural Warwickshire and our village had no streetlights nor pavement. As the nights drew in, it soon became clear that walking in the road in her navy school uniform, she was practically invisible to drivers.
I was really worried about her safety but still wanted her to have the independence of walking herself to and from the bus stop. We tried to make her more visible: bike lights on her backpack (fiddly), torch (easily lost), reflective luminous backpack (deeply unfashionable). Could we find a backpack that would meet the teen style requirements but still had the required visibility features? No.
So Futliit was born. We make LED backpacks that use LED lights to make you properly visible when walking in the dark. Our smart light-up backpacks are ideal for kids walking to school, commuters and in fact anyone who needs to be seen at night.
Here are our 8 top tips for staying safe when you're walking to school or to the bus stop.
1. Plan your route
First things first. Do you know the way? Do you know where the safe crossing points are, particularly if you need to cross a fast busy road? You might find you have to walk slightly further so that you can make sure you are safe. Don’t be tempted to take the most direct route if it means avoiding crossing points or doing something dangerous like dashing across the road between the streams of traffic.
2. Practise your route
Make sure you have walked the route a few times prior to starting school, particularly if you are not familiar with the area around your new school. Is there an alternative route if a pavement or road is closed? Plus, if you can practise your walk to school, it will help you work out how long the journey will take, giving you extra minutes in bed!
3. Be safe
'Stop, look, listen' isn't just for primary school kids. Your safety, particularly when you are walking home from school in the dark, is vital. Messing around on the edge of the kerb and shutting the world out via your headphones are recipes for disaster. Stepping out into the road without looking properly is also a massive danger, particularly as electric cars and bicycles often make very little noise but will cause you serious injury if they hit you.
4. Be visible
Visibility is key. As much as you might want to disappear at school, you do need to be seen particularly when you are walking home from school in the darker months. Don't assume that drivers will see you especially if you've got a dark school uniform. Although it is always the driver’s responsibility to watch out for you, drivers do get distracted or drive dangerously.
Winter nights, gloomy winter mornings, overcast days and heavy rain can all affect how well you can be seen. Reflective panels on your backpack or clothing are the minimum. If you don’t want to wear a luminous high vis vest, simply get yourself one of our light up LED backpacks and turn your lights on!
5. Bus timings
These next two tips are from my daughters who have been travelling on the school bus for the last few years. Remember that you need to arrive at the bus stop at least a couple of minutes before the bus is due to arrive. Sometimes the bus driver might wait for you if they see you running, but you don't want to see the bus disappearing off into the distance just because it came a minute sooner.
6. Bus drivers are human too!
Always be polite to the bus driver. Who are they more likely to wait for? The late kid who always says 'hi' and 'thank you' or the late kid who is rude? Who will they forgive when (not if) you forget your pass?
7. Have a plan for your walk to school
What are you going to do if your walk to school goes wrong? What if you want to walk a different way with your friends? What if the bus doesn't come, you get on the wrong bus or get off at the wrong stop? Do you know who to call for help or safe places where you can raise the alarm on the way home? Is there a backup plan for when you realise you have forgotten your keys?
8. Keep in touch
If you change plan or something goes wrong, make sure you let your parents or the school know. Don't just go off somewhere with your friends or on your own, without letting someone know where you are going.
Find out more about how to make yourself visible walking home on our blog.
Shop our LED backpacks now and join the Futliit family!
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