The holiday season is upon us, and we are all a little crazed with shopping lists, gift ideas, Pinning recipes and crafts, and excited kids. Traffic around shopping centers and in our communities will increase with the shopping sales and promotions, and this is a great time to go over some basic safety tips for everyone in the family.
We’re all affected by holiday drivers. Whether you’re on the regular gift run, picking kids up from school, or merely going to work when school is in session – you’re part of the traffic pattern. And, no matter what the age of your child, they’re either walking or biking to school, riding buses, riding with you, or just dealing with extra traffic around the holidays – so, safety is essential.
It’s easy to reduce transportation anxiety with some simple tips.
If your family walks or bikes to school…
Practice the rules. Remember learning to look left, right and left again for street crossings? Make sure your child – and you, too – always do this, and remember to keep looking while you’re crossing. Locate crosswalks, and use them. Always stop before entering an intersection on a bike. If it’s a new neighborhood, take a practice run before school starts, and talk about these safety rules. You’ll both feel more confident during the holidays.
Reduce the risk of being injured further by previewing the route your kids will take and check for safety issues like blind corners and hidden stop signs.
Now is a great time to talk about the danger of being distracted when traffic is involved. Headphones and mobile phones don’t make for the sharpest walkers and riders.
If you’ve ever snuck up on your kids when they were wearing headphones, it’s an easy way to point out how easily a car could do the same thing, with harmful or fatal results. After all, the Center for Disease Control reports pedestrians to account for one of every five children under the age of 15 who were car crash fatalities.
Lastly, light colors and reflectors on clothing or backpacks are helpful for visibility, especially as the days get shorter after Daylight Savings Time.
Children on bikes should always wear a helmet that fits. Check it often. Before school starts, make sure their bike has good brakes, tires and no other issues. Check the seat and handlebar height, and make sure they can reach each safely, especially if they’re inheriting the bike from an older sibling.
If you’re driving…
Don’t let shopping centers surprise you! Be especially aware of crosswalks, children, and speed zones this time of year. It’s easy to forget how hectic traffic is after you’ve been in a reprieve from it all year.
Respect the fast lane. Leave a generous distance between you and the cars around you, to allow ample space for last minute turn decisions. Give moving cars and busses room to surprise you. Defensive driving is the best defense against an accident.
Let the crosswalks work as they’re intended to. Stay back from them, don’t roll forward, honk, or pass other cars. Not every crosswalk will have a traffic light, especially as you move further away from populated areas. Be the good guy, and set the example for others.
Give bicyclists plenty of room, and reduce your speed when approaching them. If you’re parking, adopt the “Dutch Reach.” By simply using your far hand to open your car door, you’ll encourage yourself to turn and look for cyclists and even pedestrians coming up behind you, preventing a leading cause of accidents and fatalities.
If your teenagers are driving…
Make sure seatbelts are mandatory for both them and any passenger in their vehicle.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in adolescents, and drivers aged 16–19 are the most likely to die in distracted driving crashes. Even if your state hasn’t enacted a law about use of mobile phones while driving, it’s something you should make rules about as a parent.
Talk to your whole family about being prepared. Make sure drivers know where the insurance and registration papers are located in each vehicle. And, if there is an injury because of another driver’s negligence, know your rights. Contact your insurance agency promptly, and be prepared to consult a good accident law firm about your needs. Reviewing holiday season safety is just like the naughty list – check it twice! Start now, and you can worry less later.