Archive for August 2013

Millions of children across the country are returning to school.   For parents, children and commuters, sharing the road requires extra caution.  It is important for motorists to compensate for children’s underdeveloped skills.  For example, children have only two thirds of the peripheral vision that adults have.  They have difficulty determining the source of a sound and are still learning to judge distances and speeds.  When a car is coming towards them, they can’t judge how fast it is traveling or how long it will take to cover the distance.    They tend to overestimate their abilities and think they can run across the street before the light changes or a car approaches.  Crossing guards, reduced speed limits, and traffic laws all aim to make getting to and from school safer.  In addition, here are a few back to school tips for motorists.

  1. Be on the lookout for and obey school crossing guards.  You may only see them for a few hours a day, but they have one of the most important jobs in public service.  Years ago, older elementary school children were given an orange safety belt and sent out to the streets to help younger children safely cross the street.  Today, most crossing guards are adults and receive classroom training and certifications in order to perform this important job. The safety patrol members guarding the crosswalk are there to direct the students, not the traffic. It is a driver’s responsibility to stop to allow pedestrians to cross in a crosswalk.



  1. Obey School Speed Zones.  School zone speed limits are often, but not always, only applicable during posted weekday hours near the beginning and ending of school when children are likely to cross roads. In some jurisdictions, the school zone speed limit is effective at all times when school is in session, plus additional time before and after the school day. Flashing amber lights often indicate when the school zone is effective.  School speed zone laws vary from state to state, but in nearly all cases, fines for violating school speed zones are doubled.
  1. Be Attentive.  Most drivers would never intentionally speed in a school zone or pass a stopped school bus, but if you’ve ever driven to work and don’t recall getting there, you know how easy it is to daydream, get caught up listening to music, or in states that still allow cell phone usage in cars, become distracted while in a phone conversation.


  1. Know the Law For Passing a School Bus.  According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation, nearly 100,000 school bus drivers reported 88,000 vehicles passed their buses illegally in a single day. Each state has different laws concerning when it is legal/illegal to pass a stopped school bus.  Find out whether you are required to stop for a bus in the same lane, opposing lane or at an intersection in this state summary of driver’s handbooks.  Remember, children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.
  2. Heed the Crosswalks.  Generally, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections; however, regardless of the rules of the road or right-of-way, you as a driver are obligated to exercise great care and extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians. Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to go around your vehicle and puts them in a dangerous situation.


Tips for Parents:


  1. Comply with local school drop-off and pick-up procedures for the safety of all children accessing the school. At arrival and dismissal times, drivers are often in a hurry and distracted which can lead to unsafe conditions for students and others walking, bicycling and driving in the area.
  2. Avoid loading or unloading children at locations across the street from the school. This forces youngsters to unnecessarily cross busy streets—often mid-block rather than at a crosswalk.
  3. If you park on the side of the road, always have your child exit the car on the side away from traffic.
  4. If your children ride a bike, scooter or skateboard to school remind them that they must walk the bike or scooter or carry the skateboard across the crosswalk. If they roller skate or rollerblade to school, they must remove the skate or blades and walk across the crosswalk, as well.
  5. If your child rides a school bus, be sure check out our School Bus Safety Tips.

How do your driving habits change once school is in session?

Categories : Misc.
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It sneaks up on you… the day arrives and your child asks “Pleeease! I don’t want to go to the store with you… can I stay home instead?”  This can be an exciting (and scary) time for both parent and child (mostly scary for the parents!). This is a popular question in our workshops…. “Is my child ready?” and “What is the age law on children staying home alone?”

Many parents think the “law” is age 12. So it comes as a surprise to find out that in most states there is no age “law” minimum for kids staying home alone, just recommendations. The “recommendation” for each state can vary from ages 8 to 12, but these recommendations are not a law.

Only you can determine if your child is ready (and the situation is safe) to stay home alone… we have complied a partial list* with some good questions to help get you started and help you gauge the maturity and readiness of having your child staying home alone for short periods of time:

  • Does your child know how to dial 911?
  • Does your child know your full name and address?
  • Does your child know how to operate the phone correctly?
  • What are your rules regarding cooking or playing outside when you are gone?
  • Can your child respond correctly to “What if” situations such as “What if the power went out?” or “What if there was a fire?”.
  • Have you reviewed your rules on answering the phone or the door if you are not home?
  • What are your rules about having friends over?
  • Does your child show an interest or confidence in staying home alone?
  • If your child will be watching a sibling, do they get along?
  • Will a younger sibling respect the rules and authority of the older sibling?
  • Does your child know what to do if they become injured while home alone?
  • Can your child lock and unlock the door to your home?
  • Is your child physically capable and physically healthy enough to stay home alone?
  • What specific dangers might your child face? Would they know how to handle them?

Common parent myths and missteps:

  • Telling your child to not answer the door. When you  are not home, your child  should not OPEN the door but should always “ACKNOWLEDGE” the door by answering through the locked door, in a loud voice “Who is it? “I can’t help you” and then just walk away. You just want to make sure that the person on the on the other side of the door knows someone is home. If someone is casing your home to rob it, the last thing you want is for them to think your home is empty and to then have your child find themselves in a home invasion.
  • No Friends over. Some kids do better when they have a home alone buddy. If there is an emergency, both kids can work together to make a safe decision.
  • Older Siblings make great built in babysitters: Staying home alone is a big deal for many kids and it often takes some time for them to get the hang of knowing what to do and feeling confident being home alone. It is often best to wait 6-12 months before leaving an older child home with a younger sibling. This waiting period can be even longer if the younger sibling is an infant or toddler, if the younger sibling is hard to manage, has special needs or may not respect the family safety rules or if the siblings don’t have a history of getting along.
  • Daytime home alone is the same as nighttime home alone readiness: It is common for kids to be comfortable being home alone during the day but nighttime home alone readiness might not happen for a while. This is normal and time and confidence will help them prepare for being home alone after dark.


Be clear about your expectations before you leave. Leave a list of emergency contact numbers for your child and go over a list of homes or businesses they can go to if they need to seek help. When you return home make sure to ask how things went and if there is anything that can be done next time to improve the experience for both of you.


About the Author:  Kim Estes is the owner of Savvy Parents Safe Kids and has worked with parents for over 15 years, educating them on various parenting topics. Kim is a certified prevention educator through the National Security Alliance, the Kid Safe Network and is a Darkness 2 Light facilitator. As a Child Safety Expert, Kim has appeared on local and national TV and Radio shows, helping to raise awareness on the importance of prevention education. For more information about her work or to schedule a workshops go to:

Categories : Misc.
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It’s the start of the new school year and for most kids and parents, it’s an exciting time!  It’s about reuniting with friends, meeting the teacher, and shopping for school supplies.  For nearly 23 million children, it also means riding the bus.  According to NHTSA, school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S.  Nonetheless, there are several things we can teach our kids that will ensure safe travel to and from school.  Here are a few school bus safety tips.

The Bus Stop

  • Leave plenty of time to get to the bus stop.  Don’t run, and stay on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left, facing traffic.  Plan to arrive 5 minutes before your designated pick time.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.  Don’t be distracted by using handheld games or listening to music on headphones.
  • Once at the bus stop, stay a safe distance from the street.  No running or playing around.
  • Do not talk to any strangers or get in their car.  Immediately alert a parent or a known adult if a stranger tries to talk to you or tries to pick you up.
  • Wait for the bus to arrive and the stop sign to be extended.  Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and the driver tells you it is safe to get on board.
  • Always remain 10 steps away from the bus where the driver can see you.  Never go behind the bus.
  • Keep all of your loose items in your backpack.  Ask the driver for help if you drop something.

 On the Bus

  • Once on the bus, go directly to your seat and sit facing forward.  Always remain seated when the bus is moving.
  • Do not stick your head or hands out the bus window.  Never throw anything out of the bus.
  • Talk quietly and always respect the bus driver.  Follow all of their instructions.
  • Keep the aisles and emergency exits clear.  Keep your backpack on your lap.

Exiting The Bus

  • Only get off on your designated stop.  Do not go home with friends unless it has been prearranged with your parents and the school.
  • When you exit the bus take 5 giant steps (10 feet) away from the bus.  Stay away from the bus and look for cars.
  • If you drop something, alert the bus driver before trying to retrieve it.  If you forget something on the bus, do not attempt to go back to the bus as the driver may not see you and the bus may start moving.
  • Always cross the street in front of the bus.  Never go behind it.

For Parents

  • Whenever possible, walk your child to and from the bus stop.  Wait for the child to be safely on the bus before leaving.
  • Introduce yourself and your child to the bus driver.  Schools usually provide plenty of assistance at the beginning of the year to make sure kids get on the correct bus after school, but knowing the bus driver will help reassure your child that they are on the right bus.
  • Report any concerns about the safety of the operator or the bus to school officials.

Looking for a fun way to teach your kids about school bus safety?  Check out the Pennsylvania DOT activity booklet that includes crossword puzzles, coloring pages and word searches to reinforce the safety message.

Riding the bus can be fun, but for young children, it can be a little scary until you get in a routine.

The buses for elementary and middle school run close together in my neighborhood.  Years ago on the second day of school, I put my son on the bus in the morning, only to get a call a half hour later from the school letting me know that he had boarded the middle school bus and not the one that would take him to the elementary school.  He was a big 4th grader so the bus driver didn’t notice.  My son laughs about it today, but back then it left us both a bit shaken.  After that we were much more diligent about identifying both the driver and the bus number.

About the Author, Marcia Ensley 

Categories : Misc.
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Back to school preparation has started. We are spending lots of money, and endless hours, shopping for clothes, back packs and other back to school essentials. We fret over how to prepare healthy lunches and snacks. We update forms and we make appointments for haircuts and check ups.

Yet, we often overlook updating our tweens safety skills.

I wish adults would fret a bit more about their child’s safety health. That we would update and replace old safety skills with the promptness that we replace worn backpacks and outgrown clothing.

The “Tween” years are defined as those years “in between”. They are not little kids anymore but are not teenagers either. The ages of 8-12 represents a huge leap for kids and their parents. Back to school is a critical time to review and replace your tweens growing safety needs. Plan ahead now and your won’t be as likely to be caught off guard later.

Here are some basic tween safety skills that parents should be thinking about, talking about and practicing with their tween:

Checking In:  Tweens start to crave more independence from their parents and most noticeably parents will no longer be hanging out with their Tween at play-dates (oh, I was also informed by my Tween that they no longer refer to them as “play dates” either). Tweens will often start wanting to explore their neighborhood without a grown up tagging along.  This can be nerve wracking for parents but this kind of independence is a normal developmental milestone for tweens. Start practicing having your child “Check in” if the plan changes while they are at a friends house or if they are out and about in the neighborhood. Checking in helps you know and understand what they are doing and with whom.

Role Play:  Your tween will begin to experience more risky peer situations. Even if your child is a “rule follower” or has “good friends” or is “active in school, church or sports” they are going to experience risky peer situations where they may be asked to break the rules or your tween will be with peers who ARE breaking the rules or engaging in risk taking behaviors. Help give your Tween some good scripts on how to get out of these situations, present different scenarios that may happen and help them have tools and an escape plan to get them out of the situation. Also, let your Tween know that they can still come to you after the fact and talk to you about what happened.

Safety to and from School: Your Tween may want to start walking home from school and/or the bus stop. Evaluate your Tweens readiness by making sure they are able to stick to a regular (and populated) path. Will they come straight home or become distracted? What are the specific risks to your child? Traffic, high crime area, busy street to cross? Only YOU can determine if your child is ready to go it alone or with a buddy. If you have decided that they can start walking to and from school on their own, make sure that you practice a preferred route, identify homes and /or businesses they can go to if they need assistance. Take a buddy whenever possible and remind them to NEVER approach or get into a car with anyone, even if they know the person, without checking in first with you.

Asking questions: This is the time for parents to  really step up their game and start asking more thoughtful and engaged questions about what is happening in their Tweens life.  When your child is going to be spending time with other families, be sure to ask “what is the plan?” and “who will be watching the kids?”.  Some Tweens at this age are seasoned at staying home alone. Others are not.  The same goes for movies, games and internet access. Your comfort level about kids being home alone and your family rules about internet access and games may not be the same as someone else. If you have concerns, then talk to the adult in charge about your concerns. Also be thoughtful in asking your child open ended questions about their day, their interests and what their plan is when they are going to a friends house.

As a parent of Tween and a full fledged teenager, I can fully attest to the fact that the more we talked about safety expectations for back to school, the better things went. Tweens will test boundaries, rules will be broken, there will be many opportunities to discuss how things could be handled differently next time. Yet, by the end of the school year, in spite of some uncomfortable moments and deep pits in my stomach, we got through. We learned that the safety net we provided at the beginning of the school year was the most powerful investment we made in our back to school preparations.

Categories : Misc.
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