Be alert!

Red Cross offers back-to-school safety tips for kids returning to schools — and everyone around them

Summer vacation is drawing to a close as our region's schools prepare to open their doors for the new school year.

So, while you're making that list of school supplies the kids will need, take a look at these safety steps from the American Red Cross and make your student's trip back to the classroom a safe one.

For kids entering school

Keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone, but there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time:

• Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1.

• Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don't know.

School bus safety

• If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.

• Children should board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed them to get on.

• They should board only their designated bus.

• They should always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.

• They should cross the street at a corner, obey traffic signals, and stay in the crosswalk.

• Children should never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

Getting to school by car, bike, or foot

• If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8 to 12 and taller than 4 feet, 9 inches), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

• If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

• Some students ride a bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right, in the same direction as vehicular traffic.

• When children are walking to school, they should cross the street only at an intersection and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards.

• At least for the first week, parents should walk children to school if they are young, if they are taking new routes, or if they are attending new schools to ensure they know how to get there safely.

• Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

Drivers, slow down!

• Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones.

• Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop, and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off.

• Immediately after bus lights flash red, drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place, and the bus is moving.

Prepare for emergencies, and take a first-aid class

• Know your child's school's emergency plan in case a disaster or an unforeseen event occurs.

• Develop a family emergency plan so everyone will know whom to contact and where to go if something happens while children are at school and parents are at work. Details are available at redcross.org/prepare.

• The free Red Cross's First Aid app, available for iOS and Android devices, provides instant access to information on handling the most common first-aid emergencies. Download the app by searching for “American Red Cross” in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.

• Learn and practice First Aid and CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) skills by taking a course (redcross.org/takeaclass) so you can help save a life.

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