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Back to school: What should we avoid when traveling to school?

Vuelta al colegio: ¿qué evitar en sus desplazamientos a la escuela?

07/09/2018

After a long summer break, with the pool, the beach or the mountains, it is time to go back to school. First day nerves, new shoes, books, backpacks and school supplies... Everything comes all at once and children are more interested in their first day back and meeting up with their classmates than in returning to their usual routine.

In terms of trips to school, whether by car or on foot, we need to reinforce what has been learned in previous years or, if the children are going to school for the first time, they need to start basic road safety education as soon as possible. This is undoubtedly a task which falls mainly to the parents, although at school, classes on this subject are taught, or police officers visit schools in order to give talks and organize workshops. Road safety education begins in the home, and begins long before we even realize, through our own example.

When we go to school by car

It is important to start to stress the importance of using a child restraint system to children from a very young age. We need to be patient and put the children carefully in the best position possible, ensuring they are not wearing bulky coats or clothing which could reduce the effectiveness of the harnesses and adjusting them correctly (leaving enough space for one finger to be able to fit under it easily, so that the child can breathe normally).

For very young children, they should be traveling facing the rear, as it is the most effective position, and they should stay this way for as long as possible for their own safety. We can explain to older children why they need a booster seat with a backrest, and the importance of adjusting the seat belt properly.

We need to carefully explain to children how to get in and out of the car: they should not be playing around, jumping, staying on the road or crossing the street wherever they feel like it (something which also applies to walking to school, which we will deal with further on). Logically, this depends on the child's age, but the goal is always to lead by example: crossing the road at the pedestrian crossing, learning to look both ways before crossing, paying attention to the traffic lights, etc.

The most basic tenet is to take your time and not rush to school, and to look for a suitable place to park, which does not obstruct the flow of traffic and does not require children to cross the street alone.

When children walk to school

If your child walks to school, you first need to find the best route for them, whether you are going with them or if they are walking alone.  It is advisable to choose a route which has good sidewalks, good visibility and which requires crossing the least number of pedestrian crossings or traffic lights possible, even if this is a longer route than other shorter and quicker alternatives. The most important thing is that it is a safe route.

We should protect our child as a pedestrian by always holding their hand, or taking them in their strollers with the harnesses adjusted.  Young children have unpredictable movements and are not able to correctly judge distances and relative speeds: they are not aware of the risks that surround them. 

Other important advice to bear in mind is that we should ensure that the child knows our telephone number and that of the basic emergency services off by heart; they should know that we would never send a stranger to pick them up from school; and that above all they should look for a specific and safe place where they will wait for us, confident in the knowledge that we will arrive to pick them up.

When children travel by bus

Lastly, lot of parents choose the school bus to take their children to school. Following the instructions of the adult in charge at all times and always fastening the seat belt (providing the bus is equipped with them) are two of the most fundamental premises. 

Children should behave appropriately, both inside and outside the bus, and when getting on and off it. They should be particularly careful on the steps and in the aisles and should remain seated for the entire duration of the journey. 

We have prepared an infographic on this topic where we cover the main recommendations:

- Advice on safe transportation by school bus

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