TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — As kids begin to head back to school for the 2022-2023 school year, the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP), Safe Kids Kansas, and the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) are urging parents to talk to their children about pedestrian safety.

According to a news release from the KHP, there are 17 pedestrian deaths each week in the United States, and thousands more are injured.

“It’s just as important to talk to your teenagers about pedestrian safety as it is your younger children,” a news release said. “While there has been a downward trend in pedestrian deaths over the past 20 years nationally, there has been a 13 percent increase among teenagers since 2013. In fact, teens now account for about half of all pedestrian deaths among children 19 and under.”

Here are some tips for safety heading into the new school year:

  • Put devices down. One in five high school students cross the street while distracted by technology. Teach your kids to put devices down, look up, listen, and make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. If your kids ride a bus, teach them only to use devices while on the bus and not while waiting on or exiting the bus.
  • Whether walking or driving, obey all traffic signals. Kids should cross the street at the corner or crosswalk if there is one, but it’s also important for drivers to watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school.
  • Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. Tell kids to stand at least five giant steps back from the curb, to line up away from the street as the bus approaches, and to board the bus one at a time.
  • Make sure your carpool is safe. Carpooling is a great way to save time for busy families. Make sure each child in the carpool has a car seat, booster seat, or safety belt, based on individual age, weight, and height. If there isn’t, find an alternative way for your child to get to and from school.
  • Receive a pre-participation physical exam. Before playing organized sports, make sure your child receives a pre-participation physical exam, or PPE, by a doctor. This can help rule out any potential medical conditions that may place your young athlete at risk.
  • Drink enough water. In order to keep kids in top shape for sports or gym class, it’s important for them to stay hydrated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 5 ounces for an 88-pound child every 20 minutes or 9 ounces for a 132-pound adolescent every 20 minutes when they are active. That equals about 10 gulps of water every 20 minutes of play.
  • Check playgrounds where your children play. Look for age-appropriate equipment, as well as hazards, such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Report any hazards to the school.

“With safety being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we want to remind parents and students that if you hear or see something, say something,” John Calvert, head school safety, KSDE Safe and Secure Schools Unit, said. “Parents should talk with their students about all of the school safety resources available to report acts of violence, bullying and suspicious activity. There is a caring community always available to support students.”

How to report acts of violence, bullying, and/or suspicious activity:

  1. Threats of School Violence: Kansas School Safety Hotline (1-877-626-8203) is a toll-free number available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, to give students, parents, and community members the opportunity to report any impending school violence. This hotline gives students the opportunity to anonymously report any potential violence.
  2. Acts of Bullying: Parent and Youth Resource Hotline (1-800-Children)
  3. Suspicious Activity: Suspicious Activity Report (www.kbi.ks.gov/sar)

The KHP would also like to remind drivers that it is illegal to pass a school bus stopped for loading and unloading. In Kansas, the fine for this is more than $400. Look out for flashing lights and for the bus stop sign. Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop as well. Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm indicate that children are getting off or on. Motorists should stop and wait until the bus begins moving before starting to drive again.