Parents, drivers must do their part to ensure kids remain safe on walk to school, U-M experts urge

Pedestrian-related accidents a leading cause of severe injuries among children

With the start of the school year quickly approaching, physicians from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital are urging parents and drivers to do their part to keep kids safe as they walk to school. To avoid potentially fatal accidents, both pedestrians and drivers need to take extra precautions this fall.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25,000 children 5 to 14 years old are injured as pedestrians each year in the United States. Injuries sustained due to a pedestrian-related incident, which often includes severe trauma to the brain, are a leading cause of injuries at C.S. Mott.

“Kids who are struck by cars are among the most severely injured children we see in the Emergency Department. Because of their height, when a car hits a child, the impact is to the head and torso. This puts the brain and internal organs at risk for serious injuries,” says Michelle Macy, M.D., a clinical lecturer of emergency medicine at the U-M Medical School.

To avoid an accident, experts suggest parents familiarize their children with the route to school prior to the first day of classes.

“Parents should be proactive and take the time to talk about safety with their kids before they head back to school,” says Amy Teddy, Injury Prevention Program Manager at C.S. Mott. “It’s recommended that parents walk the route to school with students before the start of the year to assess hazards and select a course with the least number of traffic crossings.

“It’s also important to remember that school-age children don’t have the ability to judge distances or speed, so they are more likely to try to cross a street when a car is too close to stop in time,” says Teddy.

Adults can teach and model the following safety behaviors that all children should follow, even if they don’t walk to school every day.

While walking:
• Always cross the street with an adult until age 10.
• Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks when possible.
• Look left, right and left again when crossing.
• Always walk, never run, when crossing streets.
• Walk on sidewalks or paths.
• Walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible if there are no sidewalks.

Many pedestrian-related injuries treated at U-M are caused by distracted drivers. Physicians recommend that drivers who are passing by schools pay particular attention to their surroundings, put their cell phone conversations on hold, and slow down.

While driving:
• Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones.
• Take extra time to look for children on and near the road, before and after school hours.
• Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

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The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked as one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in the U.S. News Media Group’s 2011 edition of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals” including third in the country for heart and heart surgery. In November, the hospital moves to a new 1.1 million square feet, $754 million state-of-the-art facility that will be home to cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.

Written by Lauren McLeod

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