|September 27, 2004
Taking the bus or riding
in a car are often the quickest ways to get to school.
On the other hand, there
are many good reasons to walk or ride your bicycle: they are good
for your health, convenient, and free--just to name a few.
Sometimes the only way
to get to where you want to go when you want to get there is to
walk or ride your bicycle.
Unfortunately, in the
Statistics show that:
* 6,000 pedestrians are killed everyyear.
* 90,000 pedestrians are injured every year.
* A pedestrian or bicyclist is killed every 3 1/2 minutes.
"Each year, more
than 500,000 people in the US are treated in emergency departments,
and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries.
Children are at particularly high risk for bicycle-related injuries...."
"Every year, about
176,000 kids go to the emergency department because of bike accident
injuries. Some of these injuries are so serious that children
die, usually from head injuries. A head injury means a brain injury.
That's why it's so important to wear your bike helmet. Wearing
one doesn't mean you can be reckless, but a helmet will provide
some protection for your head in case you fall down."
You know the health benefits
of walking and riding (exercise that actually gets you where you
want to go). You know that it is often your best, or only, choice.
You also know the statistics, and you dont want to be one
When riding, you have heard for years about wearing your helmet.
In addition, you can:
"*Make sure your
seat, handlebars, and wheels fit tightly.
* Check and oil your chain regularly.
* Check your brakes to be sure they work well and aren't sticking.
* Check your tires to make sure they have enough air and the right
Wearing bright clothes and putting reflectors on your bike also
can help you stay safe. It helps other people on the road see
you. And if they see you, that means they're less likely to run
into you. You'll also want to make sure that nothing will get
caught in your bike chain, such as loose pant legs, backpack straps,
Wear the right shoes - sneakers - when you bike. Sandals, shoes
with heels, and cleats won't help you grip the pedals. And never
go riding barefoot! Riding gloves may help you grip the handlebars
- and make you look like a professional! But avoid wearing headphones
because the music can distract you from noises around you, such
as a car blowing its horn so you can get out of the way."
If riding isn't for you,
then what about walking?
"Walking is great exercise ˜
you can go almost anywhere on your own two feet. Plus, it's free.
But walking can also be
dangerous. How can you avoid getting into a crash? Well, let's
Safety tips for walkers:
- Always walk on the sidewalk. If there
is no sidewalk and you have to walk in the road, always walk FACING
traffic, so you can see any car that might go out of control.
Dress to be seen.
Brightly colored clothing makes it easier for drivers to see
you during the daytime. At night, you need to wear special reflective
material on your shoes, cap or jacket to reflect the headlights
of cars coming toward you.
Tips for Crossing
* Cross only at corners or marked crosswalks.
* Stop at the curb, or the edge of the road.
* Stop and look left, then right, then left again, before you
step into the street.
* If you see a car, wait until it goes by. Then look left, right
and left again until no cars are coming.
* If a car is parked where you are crossing, make sure there
is no driver in the car. Then go to the edge of the car and
look left-right-left until no cars are coming. Keep looking
for cars while you are crossing, and remember, walk. Don't run."
You don't walk. You don't bike. What
does this have to do with you?
Maybe you take the bus.
"Pedestrian fatalities -- those
occurring while loading and unloading school buses -- account for
approximately three times as many school bus-related fatalities
when compared to school bus occupant fatalities."
More dangerous than being on the school
bus, is getting to and from it. Whatever you may think of that big,
yellow school bus, it is the safest way for you to get to school.
"According to the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year approximately 440,000
public school buses travel about 4.3 billion miles to transport
23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities.
The school bus occupant fatality rate of 0.2 fatalities per 100
million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is much lower than the rates
for passenger cars (1.5 per 100 million VMT) or light trucks and
vans (1.3 per 100 million VMT). In the ten year period from 1977
to 1986, an average of 12 school bus occupants and 47 pedestrians
under the age of 19 were killed annually in school bus related crashes.
This number decreased from 1987 to 1996 to an average of ten school
bus occupants and 25 pedestrians. While each of these fatalities
is tragic, the numbers are small when compared to the average number
of occupants under the age of 19 killed in other motor vehicle crashes
(6,118) over the past 20 years.
As safe as they are, measures are still
being made to make school buses safer.
"Tough measures to protect children travelling to and from
school on buses have been unveiled, two years after a 12 year-old
boy died in a crash.... Pupils will no longer be allowed to stand
on school buses and children will not be allowed to sit three to
a double seat. Rob Thomas, the Vale's head of planning and transportation,
said misbehaving pupils could be banned from buses. 'In effect,
it will take less than three strikes - it depends exactly
on the nature of the incident,' he said. 'For example, if you are
throwing material on the buses to distract the driver, that could
cause an accident in its own right. What we are looking at is immediate
bans in certain cases if the misbehaviour is of such a scale that
it does put other people's lives in danger.'"
As for safety on the city bus...
If there is no seat available, use the grab bars for balance and
move to the back of the bus. There's usually more room there. For
the safety and convenience of your fellow passengers, we also ask
you to keep your packages and personal belongings out of the aisles."
And then there is the car. Whether you
have a license and a car yourself, you have friends who do, or you
rely on parents to drive you from place to place, there is something
to be said for the freedom and flexibility that comes with a car.
However, with that freedom does come some responsibility.
"Motor vehicle crashes are the
leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, and two out of three
teenagers who die in car accidents are passengers in vehicles driven
by other teens. The fact is, automobile accidents are a serious
problem for teenagers. Safety experts are trying to change that
by educating teens about the choices they make when they get behind
the wheel or ride in a vehicle with other teens. ... Fortunately,
being careful and getting more experience behind the wheel can help
you become a safer driver. According to the Insurance Institute
for Highway Safety, most teenage motor vehicle accidents are caused
* Driver error. Compared with crashes caused by older drivers, those
of teens more often involve driver mistakes.
* Speeding. Teen drivers have more crashes in which speeding is
a factor. Many high-speed crashes are single-car accidents caused
by the driver losing control of the car.
* Passengers. Teens' fatal crashes are more likely to occur when
other teens are in the car. Passengers can distract the driver -
usually by talking - and that risk of distraction increases with
each additional passenger.
* Alcohol. Drinking impairs drivers, and even though teen drivers
are less likely to drink and drive than adults are, when they do
their risk of crashing is much higher.
* Night driving. Driving at night
is risky for beginning drivers. Per mile driven, the nighttime fatal
crash rate for teens is about twice as high as the daytime rate.
* Low seat belt use. Overall, teens are much less likely than adults
to use safety belts."
No matter how you get to school, you
are not alone on the roads. Others may be getting there in different
ways, but you all need to watch out for each other.
Questions of the Week:
What factors determine the mode of transportation you choose to
get you to school? Why do you need to be aware of how others get
to school? How do their choices affect you as you travel? How do
your choices affect them as they travel? What can you do to keep
yourself safe? What responsibility do you have to keep others safe?
How does keeping the roads safe for others keep you safer as well?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum