Now that school is back in session, you’ve probably noticed a significant increase in students walking, driving, and bicycling to class. This causes additional congestion and risk for injuries since children aren’t always as focused on safety as adults.
Everyone has a duty to keep our children safe, so keep reading to learn about some ways that parents can protect their school-age children from car accidents and injuries during their commute to school.
Your Child’s Commute to School Carries Risks
Whether your child is driving, walking, biking, or riding a bus, they face safety risks on their way to and from school. During a typical school year, more than five American children and teenagers die every week while walking to school. And according to national crash data, Texas has the highest fatality rates in the country among child pedestrians and cyclists.
While you can’t protect your child from every potential risk, it’s important to educate them about transportation safety. It’s also never too early to start conversations about defensive road behavior that can reduce their risk for injury whether they’re driving, walking, or bicycling.
Teach Your Children to Be Defensive Commuters
If you have younger children who walk or bike to school, an adult should always accompany them on their commute. Young children, especially those who are 10 years old or younger, don’t have the skills needed to safely walk or bike to school on their own. If you need help taking your child to school, consider creating a “walking school bus,” which is an informal neighborhood walking group where parents take turns escorting a group of children to school.
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Regardless of your mode of transportation, use your travel time to educate your child about defensive commuting. Lead by example and teach your child to:
- Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle
- Install reflectors and lights on bikes
- Use designated bike lanes when they’re available
- Don’t wear dark clothing that makes it hard for motorists to see you
- Look both ways when crossing roads
- Never use your phone or any other electronic device while walking or biking
- Don’t wear headphones while commuting
- Only cross the road at crosswalks
- Look for routes that include pedestrian bridges and school crossing guards
- Follow all traffic signals and signs
As you travel towards your child’s school, discuss the safety techniques you’re using and explain why they matter. This way, you’ll give your child the tools they need to remain safe on their way to school.
While you might expect that young children are most vulnerable to injuries, teenagers are actually at the greatest risk of suffering a fatal injury while walking. Data from 2015 shows that while children between 15 and 19 years old made up only 26% of all school-aged children, they accounted for almost half of child pedestrian fatalities. Many of these deaths were linked to distracted commuting, meaning that children were using phones, headphones, and other devices that limited their ability to assess their surroundings and identify hazards.
Teen Drivers Are More Likely to Crash on the Way to and From School
According to one study, teenaged drivers are more likely to crash during school commutes than at any other time. Most of these commuting wrecks occur within a half mile of a school and involve multiple teen drivers. Unlike with nighttime crashes, speeding and alcohol rarely contribute to school commute crashes. Instead, teenagers crash on their way to school due to fatigue, distraction, and a lack of experience behind the wheel.
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If your teen drives to and from school or has an open lunch period where they can leave campus, limit the number of passengers allowed in their car and strictly enforce no-cell-phone rules when they’re driving. You might also want to ask your child to use some of the available apps that can keep them from texting or otherwise using their phone while their vehicle is moving.
Alternatively, consider having your child walk or take public transportation to school.
While Rare, School Bus Accidents Can Be Catastrophic
In 2016 and 2017, roughly 2,000 school bus crashes occurred in Texas. Thankfully, most of these crashes were minor; however, they still led to 26 major injuries and two fatalities. Also, keep in mind that these statistics don’t include school-related charter bus trips.
Even though most school bus crashes don’t lead to fatalities, they can still cause serious injuries. For example, in March 2018, a chartered bus carrying a Houston-area high school marching band crashed in Alabama. According to news reports, the bus veered across a median before crashing into a deep ravine. The bus driver died, and roughly three dozen of the 46 passengers on board needed emergency medical care.
There’s nothing you can do to prevent a bus driver’s negligence, but you can still teach your children to take safety measures that will reduce their risk of suffering injuries in a bus wreck. To help your child avoid school bus injuries, teach them to:
- Stand three feet from the curb while waiting for a school bus
- Use seat belts if the bus has them
- Sit with no more than one other person on a traditional school bus bench seat
- Remain fully seated until the bus comes to a complete stop
- Always follow the bus driver’s directions
If your child is involved in a school bus crash and develops symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or other condition over time, seek medical care and explain your child’s injury history to the doctor.
Lobby for Improved Safety Around Your Children’s Schools
Many school zones aren’t as safe as they could be. If you’re concerned about busy intersections on your child’s walk or ride to school, call or write your school district and local government to request improvements. Options might include:
- More school crossing guards
- Reduced speed limits in school zones as well as increased enforcement
- New crosswalks, signs, and traffic lights at dangerous intersections
While some of these improvements are expensive, there are available resources that can help with the funding. For example, the federal government’s Safe Routes to School program provides funds to communities and school districts that need to improve their children’s active commutes. In 2011, San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District (NISD) received more than $1 million in Safe Routes to School funding to improve commutes to four different schools.
If a Crash Occurs, Contact a San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer Immediately
After a crash, your first concern should always be your child’s safety. However, once they’ve received necessary medical treatment, it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced San Antonio personal injury lawyer for legal advice.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your child’s injuries, you might have a series of insurance claims that could include claims against the school district, the bus company, a negligent driver, and other parties. However, it can be difficult to calculate the value of a child’s personal injury claim without help from an experienced lawyer. When an adult suffers injuries, they can usually document their lost income and other expenses to establish damages. With children, injury claims often focus on lost potential and developmental delays instead.
At Crosley Law, we have handled complicated personal injury claims involving children. For example, in one claim, we consulted with child development and neuroscience experts to document how a subtle brain injury impacted a child injury victim’s cognitive development.
Crosley Law Fights for Injured San Antonio Pedestrians and Bicyclists
If your child was injured while commuting to school, contact Crosley Law for help. We’ll listen to your story, identify your potential claims, and educate you about your legal rights and options during a free initial consultation. To schedule your free consultation, simply complete our online contact form or call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000.
Bus in deadly Alabama crash was new, on second run: NTSB. (2018, March 14). NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/driver-s-autopsy-could-provide-answers-alabama-bus-crash-n856671
Four campuses to benefit from Safe Routes to School grant. (2011, August 31). NAISD. Retrieved from https://nisd.net/news/articles/2135
Fatality analysis reporting system. (Accessed 2017, September 10). National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/research-data/fatality-analysis-reporting-system-fars
TEA 2016-2017 bus accident reporting. (2017). Texas Education Agency. Retrieved from https://rptsvr1.tea.texas.gov/cgi/sas/broker?_service=marykay&_program=sfadhoc.bars_report_1617.sas&_service=appserv&_debug=0&who_box=&who_list=_STATE
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.