2002-09-07 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer
Back to School Safety

Many of my columns discuss consumer issues and how they are being addressed in Albany. This week, I have diverted from that format to discuss general back to school safety tips. Ensuring that our children are kept safe during the school year is important to the entire community.

Many children feel a combination of excitement, curiosity and anxiety when beginning a new year as it brings forth new schedules and challenges. As parents, we can ensure the safety of our children by discussing safety precautions such as school bus safety and transportation routes. Having a simple discussion prior to the school year may make the difference in reducing the threat of accidental injury.

School buses have proven themselves as a safe means of transportation. In fact, buses are rated as safer than cars. Even so, in 2001, approximately 26 students were killed and about 9,000 were injured in accidents involving buses. Most of the accidents occurred as students were entering or exiting the bus and did not involve a collision.

To reduce school bus accidents, you may want to discuss the following safety tips with your child:

  • Designate a safe place to wait for the bus that is away from traffic.
  • Maintain a safe distance away from the bus until it makes a complete stop.
  • After exiting a bus, promptly walk away from the bus and again maintain a safe distance. A bus driver can see a child best when they are away from the bus.
  • Use handrails to enter or exit the bus.
  • Be aware of street traffic.
  • Avoid running around intersections and pick-up/drop-off zones.
  • While on the bus, sit forward and stay in the seat until the desired location.

If you have a child walking to school, it may be necessary to discuss various precautions to protect them. Due to minimal supervision, child pedestrians face a wide array of situations while walking to and from school. Safety precautions to protect child pedestrians include:

  • Being aware of traffic signals. Never cross a street against a light, regardless if the road is clear.
  • If you are riding a bike, walk it through all intersections.
  • Walk with a friend. There is safety in numbers.
  • Make sure your child is aware of the route to school and make sure they do not deviate from the designated route.

Parents should give children a number where they can be reached in case of emergency and discuss all drop-off/pick-up scenarios, bus routes and walking patterns with their child.

Transportation safety is only one topic to consider when preparing for the new school year. This year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a Back-to-School Safety Checklist. The checklist designates six hidden hazards to check for when you drop off your child at school.

Drawstrings on Jackets and Sweatshirts - Drawstrings around the neck can contribute to injury to young children. The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee reported legislation (A.1854) prohibiting the sale of child clothing with neck drawstrings. It is expected to be enacted into law soon.

Soccer Goals - Make sure the custodian anchors the goals into the ground to prevent them from tipping over.

Playgrounds - Check services to make sure there is a 12-inch depth of wood chips or mulch to prevent head injury when a child falls. Each year, more than 200,000 children go to emergency rooms with injuries associated with playgrounds.

Loops on window blind cords - Suggest to teachers or administrators to cut the loop to prevent entanglement and strangulation. One child a month strangles and dies in the loop of a window blind cord.

Bike Helmets - Buy a helmet and insist that your children wear it while on a bike. Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.

Recalled Products - Make sure your child’s school has information on recalled toys and products. This can be received free of charge by logging on to www.cpsc.gov.

Discussing these topics with your children can help keep them safe during the upcoming school year. It may also provide you with peace of mind.

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