GROTON — As summer draws of a close and schools get ready to re-open, Groton Police Chief Donald Palma Jr. and Dunstable Police Chief James G. Downes III are reminding the communities of several safety practices when transitioning into the new school year.
The Groton-Dunstable Regional School District has announced that the new school year begins Sept. 2 for Grades 1-12 and Sept. 3 for Kindergartners.
“The new school year is an exciting time for everyone, and we want all of our young people to remain safe and healthy as they get ready to go back to school,” Chief Downes said. “Please read and follow these vital safety tips.”
“As police officers, our primary mission is public safety,” Chief Palma said. “We will be out there during school openings and closings, and we hope everyone does their part to help us ensure young people get to and from school safely.”
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reports that approximately 400,000 students in the state are transported to school by buses every year. While school bus travel is generally very safe, the majority of related injuries occur when boarding or exiting a bus because of passing traffic or due to walking in one of the bus driver’s blind spots. Children ages 4 to 7 are at the highest risk of injury.
Police recommend that parents follow safety procedures outlined by DPH.
* Educate children on safe bus riding and walking behaviors when getting on and off the bus.
* Teach young children to take five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus and to wait for the driver’s signal before crossing.
* Develop appropriate bus pick-up/drop-off policies.
* Closely supervise children under age 10 who must cross the street after exiting the bus.
The fine for illegally passing a school bus is a maximum of $200, and repeat offenders may have their licenses suspended.
“We pride ourselves on safety, and we react swiftly when a motorists fails to yield to the flashing red lights of a school bus,” said Groton Police Department School Resource Officer Rachael Mead. “Do not pass a school bus when the lights are flashing.”
Additionally, before sending your child off to school in the morning, Chiefs Downes and Palma recommend checking backpacks to make sure they are a tolerable weight. The American Chiropractic Association advises that backpacks should weigh no more than 10 percent of a student’s body weight, as heavy pressure can negatively affect the skeletal and muscular development in children.
If walking to school, or when exiting the bus, parents and guardians should educate students about safely crossing the street. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports that pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among school-aged children 5 to 18 years old.
Most injuries to children in kindergarten through third grade occur when they run into the street mid-block, while older students are most often hurt at intersections. To prevent potential tragedies, children should:
* Be aware of pedestrian hazards and how to avoid them.
* Know traffic signs and signals, and safe walking zones.
* Wait for the “walk” signal at a crosswalk, or for a crossing guard to signal the OK to proceed into the street.