As summer winds down, the National Safety Council urges parents to think about issues that might not be top of mind but can pose significant safety risks
ITASCA, Ill., Aug. 15, 2018 — More than 50 million children across the U.S. will go back to public school in the coming weeks. Between back-to-school shopping, finalizing classes and meeting teachers, the National Safety Council urges parents to slow down and ask themselves five simple questions that directly impact children’s and teens’ safety:
- How is my child getting to school?
- Does my child have the right backpack?
- Is the playground equipment safe?
- Are coaches trained to spot the signs of a concussion?
- Does my child get enough sleep?
Data indicate too few people may consider these issues. Weekday fatal crashes involving teen drivers, for example, peak in the hours before and after school.ii Loading and unloading is the most dangerous time for students who ride a school bus.iii Backpacks injure as many as 14,000 children each year.ivMore than 200,000 children go to emergency rooms because of playground-related injuries annually, concussion diagnoses are on the risevi and 15 percent of teens do not get enough sleep on school nights.vii
“We would never forget back-to-school supplies, but we tend to overlook safety,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “While unintentional injury deaths are the leading cause of fatalities involving school-age children, we often spend more time discussing first-day-of-school outfits than safety.”
To help ensure a safer back-to-school season, the National Safety Council recommends:
- Riding the bus. Children are 70 times more likely to get to school safely by taking the bus rather than riding in a car.viii The National Safety Council urges parents to put their children on the bus and calls on all states to pass laws requiring three-point seat belts on all buses to maximize safety.
- Avoiding teen carpools. A single young passenger increases a teen driver’s fatal crash risk 44 percent.ix If teens drive to school, they should do so alone – no friends or siblings should ride with them.
- Walking attentively and in groups. On average one child dies a day after being hit by a car in the United States.x These preventable deaths increase sharply after school and remain high through the evening, peaking in October.xi Children and teens should avoid texting while walking, remove headphones before crossing the street, use designated crosswalks and never assume a vehicle will stop.
- Buying the right backpack. A backpack should not weigh more than 5 to 10 percent of a child’s weightxii. It should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and never hang lower than 4 inches from the waist. Padded straps, hip and chest belts, multiple compartments and compression straps can also help. Parents should have children clean out their backpacks regularly and remove unnecessary items.
- Checking the playground. Most playground injuries are related to falls or problems with equipment.xiii Parents should look for hazards like cracks, rust, splits in wood, sharp edges, tripping hazards, platforms without guardrails or loose bolts. Equipment should stand on either rubber, sand or wood chips – never on pavement. Notify the school immediately if anything looks unsafe.
- Advocating for concussion education. Every 3 minutes, a child is treated in the emergency room for a sports-related concussion.xiv Check with school leadership to ensure coaches are educated about the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
- Planning around sleep schedules. School-aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep each night, and teens need 8-10 hours.xv Sleep deprivation can lead to serious issues including inability to concentrate in class, lower test scores, stunted growth and acne.xvi Fatigued teens are at increased risk of a car crash. Plan school and extracurricular activities so they do not impact children’s ability to get enough sleep.
- Traumatic brain injuries often leave patients with behavioral and cognitive impairments that can make managing finances difficult. To make matters worse, they could end up facing nearly $150,000 in related medical expenses. Access the free “Guide to Managing Finances After a Brain Injury“
For additional back-to-school safety information and tips for parents, visit nsc.org/backtoschool.
About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.
i According to the U.S. Department of Education
ii According to NSC analysis of 2016 NHTSA FARS data
iii According to NHTSA
iv According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
v According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
vi According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
vii According to the National Sleep Foundation
viii According to NHTSA
ix According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
x According to NSC analysis of 2016 NHTSA FARS data
xi According to Safe Kids Worldwide
xii According to the American Chiropractic Association
xiii According to National Program for Playground Safety
xiv According to Children’s Hospital of Richmond
xv According to National Sleep Foundation
xvi According to National Sleep Foundation
SOURCE: National Safety Council