Best Practices for Back to School from the Bedford Police

Submitted by John Guilfoil on behalf of the Bedford Police Department

BPDpatchAs summer draws to a close, Chief Robert Bongiorno and the Bedford Police Department would like to remind the community of several safety practices when transitioning into the new academic year.

The new school year begins Sept. 1.

“The start of school is always an exciting time for students and their parents,” Chief Bongiorno said. “We are aiming to ensure all members of the community remain safe and healthy as they head to elementary, middle or high school.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reports that approximately 400,000 students in the state are transported to school by buses every year. While school bus travel is generally very safe, the majority of related injuries occur when boarding or exiting a bus because of passing traffic or due to walking in one of the bus driver’s blind spots. Children ages 4 to 7 are at the highest risk of injury.

Chief Bongiorno recommends parents follow safety procedures outlined by DPH to prevent accidents this school season.

  • Educate children on safe bus riding and walking behaviors when getting on and off the bus.
  • Teach young children to take five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus and to wait for the driver’s signal before crossing.
  • Develop appropriate bus pick-up/drop-off policies.
  • Closely supervise children under age 10 who must cross the street after exiting the bus.

“We want children and parents to feel at ease at they embark on a new school year,” Chief Bongiorno said. “We remind drivers to always be aware of their surroundings and watch out for little ones as they enter and exit the bus.”

The fine for illegally passing a school bus is a maximum of $200. Repeat offenders may have their licenses suspended.

Additionally, before sending your child off to school in the morning, Bedford Police recommend checking backpacks to make sure they are a tolerable weight. The American Chiropractic Association advises that backpacks should weigh no more than 10 percent of a student’s body weight, as heavy pressure can negatively affect the skeletal and muscular development in children.

If walking to school, or when exiting the bus, parents and guardians should educate students about safely crossing the street. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports that pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among school-aged children 5 to18 years old.

Most injuries to children in kindergarten through third grade occur when they run into the street mid-block, while older students are most often hurt at intersections. To prevent potential tragedies, children should

  •  Be aware of pedestrian hazards and how to avoid them
  • Know traffic signs and signals, and safe walking zones
  • Wait for the “walk” signal at a crosswalk, or for a crossing guard to signal the OK to proceed into the street

Parents and guardians should also remind their children about responsible behavior while on school playgrounds. The National Safety Council reports that unsafe playgrounds are the leading cause of injury to children between ages 5 to 14 and that 40 percent occur due to inadequate adult supervision. Children should:

  • Not push or shove each other while on jungle gyms, swings, seesaws and other equipment.
  • Leave bags somewhere off the playground so that no one trips over them.
  • Avoid clothes with drawstrings or other pieces that could get caught on playground equipment.
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