Back-to-school safety tips will help ensure children get off to good, safe start this year

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  • By John Kalita
  • Air Force Flight Test Center Ground Safety
It's time for school to start and children may be a little nervous about the first day of school. Following these tips will help ease your student's mind and help ensure the school year gets off to a good, safe start.

First, remind your child that he or she is not the only student who is a bit uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.

Point out some of the positive aspects of starting school - it will be fun, they'll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh positive memories about previous years, when the child may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because he or she had a good time.

You may also find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or ride with on the bus.

Backpack safety

Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

Pack light - a backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child's body weight.

Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.

If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load.

Traveling to and from school

If your child's school bus has lap or shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. If your child's school bus does not have lap or shoulder belts, encourage the school to buy or lease buses that have them.

Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.

Do not move around on the bus.

Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street.

Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.

Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus and to the school building.

When riding in a car, younger children should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when the child has reached the top weight or height allowed for the car safety seat, or when the child's shoulders are above the top harness slots or ears have reached the top of the seat.

Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's seat belt fits properly - usually when the child reaches about 4 feet 9 inches tall and is 8-12 years of age. This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with his or her legs bent at the knees, feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat. The lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not across the stomach.

All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive with more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling for example), move the front-seat passenger's seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.

If your child rides a bicycle, ensure they always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.

Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.

Use appropriate hand signals.

Respect traffic lights and stop signs.

Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.

Know the "rules of the road." A lot of children walk to school. Make sure your child's walk to a school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.

Be realistic about your child's pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.

If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can walk it safely.

Bright colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.