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Follow steps to keep kids safe while walking
Every week day during the school year, children ranging in age from elementary school to high school can be seen walking or riding their bikes to and from their schools. As a parent, one of the best things you can do for your child to help keep them safe is to make them aware of dangers they might face, but without frightening them.
“It's always a conversation that parents should have with their children,” said Sgt. Leanne Worthen of the Yuma Police Department. “You start by telling them that when they are out there in the community, walking to places that mom and dad don't have a set of eyeballs on, they have to understand there are some things they have to be watchful of.”
Worthen said from a law enforcement perspective, the first thing a parent should consider is whether their child has the ability to walk to school on their own. Can their child stay alert to the dangers of traffic? Can they stay focused on getting to school without getting distracted and delayed?
If parents do decide to let their children walk to school, Worthen said they should take the time to walk the route with them a few times before letting them do it alone, especially if the route is difficult to remember. This can be done, she said, the first few days before school starts or by meeting them before and after school a few times once it starts.
“Walk them through their route, showing them the way you want them to take,” Worthen said.
It's also important to choose the safest routes possible. Worthen suggests that any route a child is walking should have sidewalks and doesn't cross any busy streets. Also, they should never take any shortcuts, even if it gets them to school quicker.
“If they have to cross streets, teach them to use the crosswalk and look both ways before crossing the street,” Worthen said.
Worthen said parents should also point out safe spots along their child's route, such as the homes of family friends, police and fire stations or other known places they can stop in case of an emergency. Also, if possible, arrange for your child walk with another child. Walking with someone else will be helpful to your child in case any emergency should occur.
“If you don't have to, don't walk to school by yourself,” Worthen said. “Have another student or a friend with you. It always helps when there is more than one.”
Other steps parents can take to make sure their children's journey to and from school is a safe one include:
• Leave items and clothing that display your name at home so a stranger cannot read it and use it to talk with you.
• If your child is old enough to have a cell phone, teach them all the emergency numbers and instill the importance of them calling you whenever they leave school and arrive at home and vice/versa.
• Also, if they do have a cell phone our other electronic device, do not use it while walking. It is too much of a distraction and prevents them from paying attention to their surroundings.
• Talk about some of the ploys a stranger would use to gain their trust, such as helping them find their dog or asking the child to show them how to get somewhere.
• It is also a good idea to have a secret word for your child that only trusted people know so the child knows its safe.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.