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Back to School Pedestrian Safety

School has started and little pedestrians are everywhere. It is the time of year to be extra cautious if you drive your car when students are walking to and from school and as parents, we need to be certain our children who walk are careful and know the rules. In Arlington County, Virginia, parents are upset because bus routes were changed and service was eliminated for 120 students. With budget cuts everywhere, you may have similar things happening in your community.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration provides many publications for parents and children. If you haven't already, please take a look at their pages for children; they are filled with good information geared to keep the attention of young children. Walking Safety: A Report to the Nation, published in August, 2012 by Safe Kids, has plenty of interesting information and a few scary statistics. They also warn about distractions of older kids by cell phones and music. The statistics below were taken from the report:

"Each day, an estimated 61 children in the United States ages 19 and under are injured as pedestrians – more than 425,780 children in the last 15 years. In 2010 alone, 501 child pedestrians were killed. Since 1995, nearly 11,053 children have died as a result of being hit by motor vehicles." From Walking Safety: A Report to the Nation

Before my youngest was in school and when he was too short to easily be seen by drivers, I taught him to give friendly and vigorous waves to cars in parking lots and when crossing the street; it was extra assurance for me that he wouldn't be overlooked and, being fidgety anyway, he enjoyed the attention and the activity.

I refer to the drivers who endanger pedestrians as the "Tappangoes." They "tap" their brakes at stop signs and stoplights and "go" without stopping completely. They drive cars and bicycles and do not obey traffic signs and rules.

The name came to me while walking my dog when, reaching a four-way stop, I saw four cars arrive at the four signs simultaneously, tap their brakes and then mindlessly accelerate. At least one of them was talking on the phone. Thank goodness nobody was hurt, but a child might not have seen it coming and could have been badly injured or become one of the 61 that day.

I believe that the Tappangoes may have their roots in New York where their ancestors were prone to driving yellow vehicles. Others may have come from some European countries where pedestrians are disregarded.

Pregnant women, school children, the elderly, people walking dogs, moms and nannies pushing baby carriages have come close to losing lives or limbs because of the Tappangoes in motorized vehicles. My dog saved my life when he balked at crossing an intersection when he saw a tribe member running a red light.

Please caution your children about the Tappangoes. Children do not understand that all drivers are not good, thoughtful or concerned about their wellbeing. Because kids are required to follow the rules, they think grownups will too; sadly, they don't. Use the suggestions below to help teach your children to be safe.

You can't be too cautious. Below are the pedestrian safety suggestions from the The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Please discuss them with your children and keep them in mind when you are out walking, as well. Your family needs you!

Walk on the Sidewalk
• Stay on the sidewalk and crosswalks. Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. 
If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.

Cross at Intersections
• Most people are hit by cars when they cross the road at places other than intersections.
Look left, right, and left for traffic
• Stop at the curb and look left, right, and left again for traffic. Stopping at the curb signals drivers 
that you intend to cross. Cross in marked crosswalks and obey the signal.

See and Be Seen
• Drivers need to see you to avoid you.
• Stay out of the driver's blind spot.
• Make eye contact with drivers when crossing busy streets.
• Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at night. 
Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
• Do not let kids play near traffic or cross the street by themselves. Kids are small, and
drivers may not see them if they run into the street.

Watch your kids
• Children should not cross streets by themselves or be allowed to play or walk near
traffic. Kids are small, unpredictable, and cannot judge vehicle distances and speeds.
• When kids get older, teach them three things to do before they cross the street: 
1) Try to cross at a corner with a traffic light. 2) Stop at the curb. 3) Look left, right, then left 
again to make sure no cars are coming.

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