Editorial: Like adults, kids must focus, too, on back-to-school safety
The start of a new school year rightly brings the annual warnings aimed at adults who drive -- look out for kids walking and riding bikes, watch for stopped school buses, take extra care in school zones. We shared it ourselves just a few weeks ago.
But parents and local authorities also must make sure children get the safety message as well.
School and police officials in the Round Lake area recently had to admonish students after three kids were struck by vehicles soon after the start of classes. Each accident involved kids darting across multiple lanes of traffic and into the path of moving vehicles near John T. Magee Middle School. Two were at mid-block and one was at a crosswalk where a student rode a bicycle against the traffic signal and into the side of a vehicle.
Fortunately, there were no serious injuries. But the mini-trend was enough to trigger action by Round Lake police and Round Lake Area Unit District 116 officials. The coordinated response was firm and swift in making it clear to students that they, too, have responsibility in the effort to keep them safe.
It's a message worth repeating in schools and communities throughout the suburbs because of the risks involved when kids don't follow the rules. Data from the 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show 21 percent of children 14 and younger killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians and an estimated 9 percent of children ages 10 to 14 were injured pedestrians, the highest among the age categories.
In Round Lake, police officials responded to the student pedestrian accidents by stepping up enforcement around two intersections near the school, where they issued at least nine tickets to students for failure to use crosswalks, also known as jaywalking. One Round Lake High student received two citations after being caught running into traffic as he crossed mid-block in the morning and afternoon in the same area, police said.
School officials met with police and reviewed the accidents and what was being done to prevent them. District 116 officials reminded all students about the need to safely travel to from school by addressing the matter in assemblies and in announcements by teachers, and parents were urged to discuss it with their children, officials said.
The good news is that no new accidents have occurred since.
Round Lake Police Chief Michael Gillette's safety message to students emphasizes these points: don't walk and text, cross only at intersections and in crosswalks where available, follow crosswalk and traffic signals, don't cross mid-block and don't dart into traffic.
That's important advice kids will need to grow to be adults who teach their children to be safe pedestrians. While all of us adults are taking extra care to keep young people safe as they return to school, we also need to be sure they're on guard as well.