Safety concerns can easily take a backseat amid the rush to stock up on fresh school supplies and fall's hottest elementary-school fashions. But most parents are surprised to know that school-related accidents account for about 2.2 million injuries each year in children under the age of 14. Happily, many of these are easily preventable.
Here's a look at where and how school-related injuries occur -- and a few simple precautions parents can take to help keep school-age kids safe.
Playgrounds account for the majority of school-related injuries... with falls from equipment making up more than half of these. Adequate playground surfacing - at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch or other loose-fill safety surface - that's maintained throughout the year is proven to help prevent injuries from falls. Kids will be kids on the playground, and scrapes and bumps are just part of it, but adequate surfacing at your child's school can help minimize the risks.
Back-to-school time also increases kids' risk of injury due to traffic, bicycles and school buses. Review ALL basic traffic safety rules with your walkers, car riders and bicycle riders to ensure safe to-and-from school habits. Bicycle riders should always wear a helmet (buy a "cool" one if necessary… it's cheaper than brain surgery!) and be certain that bike riders know and follow bicycle rules of the road. Bus riders should arrive at the bus stop early, know and follow the driver's safety rules, walk several steps away from the bus upon exiting, and wait for the bus to leave before crossing the street.
Possibly the most effective preventative measure against traffic injuries is being organized and on time. Though easier said than done, it's true that when kids and parents rush to arrive at the last minute, safety rules and caution can be forgotten. Kids dash across the street and parents roll through stop signs - that's just how accidents happen. It's a challenge, but adding 15 minutes to your morning routine can dramatically decrease the risks to your family and to others.
Clothing such as drawstring hoods and accessories like backpacks also account for several injuries each year - and even several deaths in the past. Drawstrings and backpack straps can become caught in bus or car doors, a very real and dangerous hazard. Remove or shorten drawstrings on younger kids' garments and, once adjusted to size, cut loose or dangling backpack straps to help prevent these injuries.
Organized sports are another contributor to the tally of school-related injuries, but these don't have to be "just part of the game." Parents should be fully aware of all risks and make sure kids are properly conditioned, prepared for the physical demands of the sport, and that the proper safety equipment is always used. Also ensure that the school's sports program is prepared to treat emergencies during both practice and competition.
Kids will always be kids. Accidental scrapes, bumps, falls, and even a break or two are just a few of the things we signed on for as parents. But a little extra effort on the side of caution as the busy school year gets underway can mean the difference between a simple band-aid fix or 32 stitches - or worse!
The following websites offer more information on school-related injuries, home safety and injury prevention measures: www.safekids.com www.cpsc.gov www.KidSmartLiving.com