Back to school not back to school? That is the question!

by Sam DiGiovanna

Regardless of the question the answer is “Safety for Children.” With Covid -19 there seems to be a lot of uncertainty about what schools will meet face-to-face and what schools will continue distance learning.

Whether children go back to school or not, kids are getting a bit of ‘cabin fever’ and their escape is playing outside. Regardless of face to face or distance learning we need to be cautious as kids will be out and about playing or going to and from school or both!

I will admit, when I was younger, I hated all the back-to-school commercials. They were a dreaded reminder that summer was over and pretty soon, I'd be back inside a hot, stuffy classroom, mourning my lost freedom.

As an adult, the back-to-school season brings another warning: Morning and afternoon commutes will now involve throngs of students walking, bicycling, driving or riding buses (or electric scooters) to and from school. We were all kids once, so we know we cannot count on them to be paying attention. That is why it is important to use extra caution while driving in school zones.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 75 school-age pedestrians are killed each year during school travel. These are preventable deaths! Let us share some lessons and start a safety campaign in the communities we protect with these safety reminders:

  • It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
  • School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists they are preparing to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to motorists the bus is stopped, and children are getting on or off the bus.
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus.
  • Be alert. Children walking to or from their bus are usually comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.
  • Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Do not stop with a portion of your vehicle over the crosswalk.
  • In a school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are blinking, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
  • Remember: Children are the least predictable pedestrians and the most difficult to see. Take extra care to look out for children not only in school zones, but also in residential areas, playgrounds, and parks.
  • Do not honk your horn, rev your engine, or do anything to rush or scare a pedestrian in front of your car, even if you have the legal right-of-way.

Now that is just the first lesson. There is much more schooling on safety if you are interested in spreading this safety message. Check out https://lnkd.in/gxcRZ83.

Remember: Community campaigning on safety begins with us! Even if your community will not be going back, these are some good safety reminders for you and your community!


Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale. He also is also VP of Fire Operations for www.Cordico.com