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Back-to-School Safety: Tips from the Experts

Back to School Safety: Walk, Ride or Bike the smart way 

As we head back into a new school year, it is so important for parents to sit down with their children and talk about safety, whether their child is walking to school, riding their bike or taking the bus. It is equally as important for parents and motorists to be alert when they are on the road. Because the Tampa Bay area is such a metropolitan area, the extra volume of traffic when school is in session creates all sorts of issues for law enforcement, which is why we asked Colonel Chad Chronister with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to answer some common questions we hear from parents.  

“Traffic safety is paramount. Because we are such a metropolitan area, the extra volume of traffic when school is in session creates all sorts of attendant issues: pedestrian safety (particularly at crosswalks); school zone speed limits; school bus stopping issues; harried parents; and students on bikes (and foot) watching their cell phones instead of the road.” -Colonel Chad Chronister, HCSO 

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Q: What should I tell my child about school bus safety? 

A:  Follow the rules. Follow the rules. And follow the rules. The bus drivers make multiple stops on their routes, and those particular stopping points have been researched and designated for student safety. Tell your children to always cross at a crosswalk to get to the bus stop. Never dart across the road to save time or steps. The bus door opens on the right for a reason: to prevent cars from passing on the same side. Tell your children to put their heads on swivels, and watch around them whenever they are headed to their bus stop or getting on the bus. Then there is school bus etiquette for the riders. The bus driver will set the rules for the safety of everyone. Tell your child to listen and be safe. 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH HCSO’S PUBLIC SAFETY VIDEO “GOT BRAKES?”  to learn when to stop and when not to stop for a school bus. 

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Q: When riding their bikes or walking to school, what safety tips can you share? 

 A: To the parents: Scout the route your child will take. Walk it or ride it. Know the terrain, the hazards and the crossings. To the children: Walk with an adult, or if not, walk with another student. Four eyes are better than two. Phone down, eyes up! Pay attention to the sidewalk, not the latest text. Don’t wear headphones. Keep your ears free to hear things, such as sirens and car horns. Bicyclists need to learn the rules. ALWAYS look left, right and left again when crossing the road and be particularly aware of vehicles making turns.  Got helmets? Wear them, every time. Get off the bike at crosswalks and walk the bike to the other side. Obey the school crossing guard. They are trained to keep you safe.  

Q: When is a good age to leave my child home alone after school? 

A: There is no perfect answer to that question. Each parent or caregiver must assess the child’s maturity and ability to be alone. There is no defined age that sets the benchmark, and it really is an individual case-by-case decision for a parent.  

Q: What do motorists need to know? 

A: If we could scream a message to motorists it would be, “Phone down. Eyes up!’’ Motorists must understand the increase in traffic that will accompany the start of school: Parents in a hurry, school buses packed with students on timetables, children out walking or riding their bikes. The elements for accidents or tragedies are ever present during the school year. If motorists simply slow down, avoid distracted driving, and drive like it’s your own child out there walking to school or riding that school bus, we’d all be safer. And lastly, motorists need to know that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office will be out in full force come Aug. 10th to ensure the safety of each and every student!

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