Keep kids safe on the road this school year

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As we near the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, two things come to mind: child pedestrian safety and seat belt safety. We all need to be more aware about these safety issues.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 80% of child pedestrian deaths happen in non-intersection locations. During the school year, there will be many children walking the streets heading for school or waiting for the school bus to arrive. Their safety needs to be on our minds every day as we venture out driving to work, shopping, visiting a friend or even driving our own child to school.

Please be aware of your speed, especially in residential areas of Wilson, as children will sometimes dart into the street. As school buses become the norm on the streets during the morning and afternoon commute, remember that it is important for all of us to be aware of their presence and watch for any yellow or red flashing lights. These buses carry very special cargo who could be easily injured by a passing vehicle.

Secondly, it’s important to follow proper car seat and seat belt safety in our own vehicles to protect ourselves and our passengers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drivers and front-seat passengers who are wearing their seat belts during a car accident reduce the risk of death by 45%.

If you are transporting children, please make sure that they are restrained into an age- and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat or buckled into a seat belt. And equally important, remember that in North Carolina all adults, regardless of where seated in the vehicle, are required to wear a seat belt. If we follow proper seat belt safety, hopefully our children will learn from our example.

Over the last 18 months I have had two friends who have had a teenage child seriously injured in an accident where they were not properly restrained while traveling. One suffered significant brain injury that required a long rehabilitation in order to recover. The other one is more recent and is still in the process of early recovery. Talk with your children about the importance of seat belts. They truly can save lives.

The return to school is an exciting time for children and parents. Please do your part to ensure it is a safe time for all as well.

For more information about car seat safety and laws, visit www.safekids.org.

Ron Stahl, MD, is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.