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As we begin a new school year, it is important to be mindful of buses on the roads, kids on the sidewalks and more frequently used crosswalks along roadways all over Tampa Bay. Here is a list of helpful tips to keep in mind as you prepare to take to the road or the sidewalk as school gets underway.

Friday: Children at bus stops should ALWAYS wear reflectors since most pick up times happen before the sun comes up. Reflectors like these can attach to your child's backpack or jacket, and they come in cool shapes and colors so your child is less likely to take them off. These actually meet the European safety standard for pedestrian reflectors - that has to do with the amount of light they reflect. We don't have a standard here in the U.S., but you CAN order these online. They are about 5 dollars a piece, and can be purchased at www.pedestrianreflectors.com. Allow about a week and a half for shipping. You can also find a variety of reflector options in the sporting goods sections of most big box stores.

Thursday: If your child is old enough to walk or bike to school, it's very important that he or she have the following facts memorized: whatever phone number will reach you directly whether that is home or cell, his or her home address and 911. It is not enough for your child to have these things stored in a phone because we all know how kids can be with misplacing phones. If your child is a victim of or witnesses an accident or incident of some kind, those facts will be identifying factors for law enforcement and will help responders reach you as quickly as possible.

Wednesday: One of the biggest pedestrian safety issues we have in this area has to do with misusing crosswalks. Most crosswalks in the area now have flashing signals that your child needs to trigger before crossing, and he or she should wait to make sure traffic DOES stop before stepping into the street. Drivers, you are required by law to stop when the lights at a crosswalk are flashing, not try to hurry through before someone walks into the road. At bus stops, students need to stay out of the road and off of curbs. Drivers need to approach bus stops and crosswalks very cautiously and slow down whether there is a stop or crosswalk there or not.

Tuesday: If your child walks or bikes to school, make sure you set up a walking group that they can travel in. It's important that children do NOT walk or bike alone, and make sure your child is wearing reflectors or light colored clothing if he or she is going to be walking before the sun is all the way up. And, texting and driving is now against the law in Florida, but distracted walking or biking can be every bit as dangerous. Make sure your child understands that his or her phone is for emergencies only and that music devices with headphones should NOT be used as hearing the road is just as important as seeing it. Drivers need to drive defensively, but students should be defensive walkers.

Monday: Those little stop signs on buses that are used when kids are entering or exiting the bus are a big cause of confusion. Here's when that stop sign applies to you:

  • If you are travelling on a road without a raised median or at least five feet of flat median like grass or a median marked with solid lines, then you must stop when the stop sign is in use.

Here's when it does NOT apply to you:

  • If you are on a divided highway with a raised or wide median OR a concrete barrier dividing opposite lanes of travel, you're good go. You don't have to stop, but do drive cautiously. You never know when a child may choose to cross the road.

Check back daily for more helpful tips as we draw nearer to the first day of school.

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