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New website launches to educate parents, kids about traveling safely to school

Posted On Mon, August 19, 2013

Back-to-school season is well underway, and the National Safety Council is looking to ensure that students are protected from harm as they make their way to class - whether by car, on foot or by bus.

Partnering with the NSC in this endeavor is student transportation services company First Student. Gary Catapano, senior vice president of safety for the Ohio-based company, indicated that he's pleased to be joining the NSC in this yearly effort.

"There is nothing as important as getting students to and from school safely," said Catapano.

He added the two organizations have launched a website that will give parents and their young kids the tools they need to know as they go to the bus stop or drive there in the family car.

While some of the back-to-school safety travel recommendations may seem obvious, safety experts say it never hurts to have a refresher course.

For example, each year, many students will cross the street in areas that haven't been designated for crossing. While this may not seem like a risk, a substantial number of students are hurt or injured due to motorists' and/or pedestrians' inattention at these portions of the road. To avoid this risk, crossing the road should only be performed at the designated areas and when traffic signals permit it.

While distracted driving awareness traditionally focuses on ensuring that motorists don't use wireless devices when behind the wheel, bus drivers can be distracted by kids who they're transporting to and from school. Their distractions, though, primarily derive from having to constantly look in the rearview mirror to keep kids under control and behaving properly. Parents are encouraged to remind their kids that they are to sit in a seat whenever the bus is in motion and to avoid behavior that is distracting to the driver.

'Distracted walking' more pervasive than ever
Another issue that's become increasingly common among students - particularly those who walk to and from school - is a phenomenon known as "distracted walking." This typically occurs when students have their heads down and are focused on sending or writing a text message while they're walking, oblivious to others that are around them. Parents should be sure that they talk to their kids about distracted walking and what it entails.

"Heading back to school can be a stressful time for both parents and students," said Janet Froetscher, CEO and president of NSC. "As the safety of your family is of the utmost importance, parents are encouraged to use this time to have conversations with children of all ages to help keep them safe."

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation has made more than $2 million in pedestrian safety grants available to cities to combat pedestrian deaths caused by distracted walking.

"Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian," said Anthony Foxx, secretary of the DOT. "We all have a reason to support pedestrian safety, and now, everyone has new tools to help make a difference."

States have until August 30 to apply for the grant, which is to be put toward education initiatives aimed at making the issue more common knowledge.

Auto insurance rates are largely tied to the prevalence of accidents on roadways today. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 4,400 pedestrians who were killed by an automobile while walking in 2011 - up 8 percent from 2009.

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