By Assemblyman John Wisniewksi
As the month of August comes to an end, thoughts of summer fun are replaced with lengthy to do lists and errands as everyone tries to get ready for the new school year.
In September everything changes – late nights are replaced with early bed times, playtimes are replaced with homework and everyone in the house needs to adjust to new schedules and routines.
With so many new things to focus on, we sometimes forget to think about safety.
A recent report issued by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign – a non-profit organization seeking ways to reduce automotive dependency in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, evaluated the need for an increased focus on the safety of pedestrians.
While the report does cite an overall decrease in the number of pedestrian deaths this year – it also shows that increases in the amount of foot traffic coupled with decreases in the amount of funding for pedestrian safety initiatives statewide is cause for concern, especially now as our children are going back to school.
Remember to take the time to check your child’s route to school for hidden hazards. Make sure that all the intersections have crossing guards, and be realistic about your child’s ability to navigate traffic and other potential hazards. Motorists should always watch for children and use extra caution near school zones, but since that is not always the case, remind your children to check for traffic before they enter into a street or intersection and to always look both ways before crossing the street.
For children who ride the bus to school there are other safety hazards. Make sure they know to not stand in the street while waiting for the bus. I know that sounds obvious, but on some side streets that have light traffic, the street seems like a harmless extension of the sidewalk. That is until a driver rushing to work doesn’t see a child. Also, tell them to never reach underneath the bus to pick up anything that may have rolled beneath it. The bus is big and bus drivers don’t always have the ability to see if something has rolled underneath it. Children should also be reminded to stay in their seats and wear lap or shoulder seat belts if the bus is so equipped. Children should cross the street in front of the school bus and never behind, where they will be out of sight of the driver.
Even if you are the one driving your child to school, there are things you should watch out for. All passengers should wear seatbelts or be in an age-appropriate safety seat while in the car. Your child should ride in a belt-positioning safety seat until the vehicle’s regular seat belt fits properly (usually when the child is between 8 and 12 years of age and close to 4’9” in height). This means that the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach; and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with their legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down. All children under the age of 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat, move the front 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. For teens that may be driving to and from school on their own, remind them to limit the number of other teen passengers and to not eat, drink or talk on a cell phone while driving.
To protect the progress the state has made to improve pedestrian safety, I have introduced legislation (A-1329) that would amend the state’s motor vehicle regulations to give pedestrians increased safety and a clear right to safely navigate the state’s roadways. The measure was released from the transportation committee in March.
Whether your children will walk, bike, ride the bus or travel in a car to school, remember that there are many important safety rules that both you and they should follow. Many injuries and even possible death can be prevented through education. Make sure your children know the ways to stay safe.
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