When school begins this fall, many Oklahoma students will arrive by bus or car, while others will walk or ride bicycles, and that means keeping some important safety precautions in mind.
Walking and biking are easy, reliable ways to get anywhere, including to school, and are environmentally friendly and offer a great way to get in some physical activity, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.
“However, children can be at increased risk of injury because they’re smaller and can have trouble judging distances and speeds of cars,” Peek said. “They also generally don’t have a lot of experience with traffic laws.”
As a basic rule, walkers and bikers should obey all traffic signs, signals and laws, as well as any adult school crossing guards.
“Younger children who walk or ride their bikes to school and children who don’t know the rules of the road should be accompanied by an adult,” Peek said. “Keep in mind that in many states, bicycles are considered vehicles. Parents and caregivers also should check local and state laws to see if bicyclists can use the sidewalk.”
Regardless of the age of the children, family members should work together to map out the safest route from home to school.
“Parents and caregivers should talk with their children about sticking to the chosen route, not letting their friends talk them into taking shortcuts and not hitchhiking or accepting rides from people they don’t know or who weren’t sent by their parents,” Peek said.
Walkers should use sidewalks, if they are available. If not, keep to the shoulder of the road, facing traffic.
Meanwhile, bicycle riders should wear properly fitted bike helmets for protection from injury as well as brightly colored clothing to make them more visible to motorists.
Bikers should be predicable in their movements and go with the flow of the traffic, staying to the right and riding in a straight line, rather than weaving around cars.”
“Students riding their bikes to school should watch for road hazards such as potholes, storm grates, pools of water and other things that could cause them to lose control of their bikes,” Peek said. “Parking lots or other low-traffic areas are good places to practice riding to increase bike-handling skills such as riding in a straight line, stopping and signaling.”
Walkers and bikers should pay attention to their surroundings and keep distractions, such as cell phones or other electronic devices, to a minimum.
“Watch for parked, oncoming or moving vehicles when crossing driveways and intersections,” Peek said. “Use caution at intersections and crosswalks. Before crossing a street or intersection, stop and check the traffic. Only begin crossing when there is no traffic coming.”
For more information on bicycle safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at www.nhtsa.gov/Bicycles and contact your county Extension office.