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Sheriff's Station offers back-to-school safety tips

Posted: August 17, 2009 5:56 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2009 12:36 p.m.
As students assemble on school campuses throughout the Santa Clarita Valley and school bells ring in another new school year, parents should discuss safety rules with their children, and motorists should remember to be alert for children near schools and bus stops.

"We should always be aware and cautious when we are driving, but need to take extra precautions now that many schools are back in session and our children will be near our busy roadways in great numbers on a daily basis," Captain Anthony La Berge said. "Expect the unexpected when it comes to children, roadways, and intersections. Don't assume the child will not step out into the street, assume the opposite and be ready to react."

Thousands of children are injured or killed in accidents involving pedestrians and automobiles in California every year. These unnecessary tragedies can be prevented if we all do our part.

Parents, friends and mentors should take the time to discuss a few simple safety rules with children. Motorists should re-familiarize themselves with traffic laws and the safe operation of motor vehicles, especially those pertaining to school zones.

One of the easiest things for motorists to do is drive with their headlights on during all hours; studies have shown that vehicles with their lights on during the day are significantly easier to see by pedestrians than those without lights on.

Also, persons operating motor vehicles should be aware of clues that children might be present, including crossing guards, school buses, and playgrounds.

Finally, motorists should remember that the speed limit is reduced in school zones. Children 12 and under should not ride in the front seat of a car, whether it has front passenger airbags or not. Children under 6 years of age, or weighing less than 60 pounds, must ride in an approved child restraint device.

If your child rides a bicycle to school, make sure he or she knows the rules of the road and follows them. Parents whose children bicycle to school, should ensure they wear a helmet and that their bicycle is working properly.

Children who walk to school should always walk in groups, and parents should remind them not to take shortcuts through dirt fields or alleys.

Pedestrians should cross at designated crosswalks, following the old rule of looking to the left, to the right, and to the left again before crossing the street. Extra caution should be exercised in bad weather by motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

Perhaps the single biggest challenge around our schools is pick up and drop off times. If possible, walk your child to school or take alternative transportation. If not, arrive early, be patient and courteous to other motorists, park legally, and take consideration of the neighborhood you are in. Avoid parking in driveways, stay off of private property and others front lawns, and be respectful of others. Treat other dwellings and property in the neighborhood as you would your own.

Personal safety rules are of utmost importance and should be emphasized to children over and over again. Remind them to yell or scream and run away if an unknown person tries to grab them. They should never speak to strangers in public or on the Internet, nor should they believe a message from a stranger. As soon as children are able to do so, have them memorize their address, phone number, and full name.

Parents should carry a current picture of their child and be ready to provide an accurate physical description at a moment's notice including, height, weight, hair and eye color, identifying marks or characteristics and clothing. Be familiar with your child's friends and acquaintances and their contact information including addresses and phone numbers.

"We should all take the time to ensure our children are educated and aware," La Berge said. "If you see something that is not right in or around our schools at any time you should immediately call the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station."


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