The carefree, long lazy days of summer are almost over and another school year is fast approaching. This means different morning routines for most of us with school-age children. It also is a time to reinforce certain safety issues with our kids that they may have forgotten over the summer. This list should serve as a helpful reminder to review with your children.
1. Stop for school buses and children in the cross-walks. I put this one first even though it has more to do with us adults then it does children, but then again it also applies to teenage drivers. We're all in a rush to get to work, school, etc in the morning. But nothing, I repeat, nothing is more important than exercising the utmost caution when operating a vehicle -- especially in areas where school children walk to school or wait at bus stops. Children late for school are notorious for dashing out in front of cars or coming from blind spots. When in the presence of a school bus or cross walk where children are present, be hyper-alert and take your time, a 30 second delay in getting where you are going is not going to make or break you.
2. Stay seated on the school bus. Children need to be reminded to keep their arms and hands inside the bus. The bus driver has enough to worry about. Further, until the bus comes to a complete stop, kids should remain seated, it is too dangerous otherwise.
3. Obey all traffic signals. Just as drivers need to be mindful of pedestrians, pedestrians need to be mindful of all posted traffic signs and lights. Pedestrians are at a disadvantage. They are utterly unprotected from oncoming traffic when they are in the street. They must therefore be vigilant and try to avoid all traffic dangers as best as they can. That starts by obeying the traffic/pedestrian signals and signs.
4. Wear helmet while riding bikes. As most of us know, it is illegal for anyone under 17 years old to ride a bike in New Jersey without a helmet. While it may have been deemed uncool back when I was a kid to ride a bike with a helmet, since this law was passed many years ago, it has now become the norm, and besides legally, kids don't have a choice in this matter.
5. Check playground equipment at school. New regulations are in place whereby the ground cover under slides, swings and jungle gyms must meet certain minimum standards. Specifically, the ground cover must be filled in up to a certain depth to provide acceptable shock absorption for falls that are inevitable to happen. Check the standards and then bring a ruler the next time you are at school and see if the depth requirements are met. If not, alert a school administrator of your concerns.
6. Stop bullying at all costs. Not only does New Jersey have a strong anti-bullying law in place, the ramifications of your child being deemed a bully will be long-reaching and can haunt your child for the rest of their lives. This point is deserving of a full blog post in and of itself. But, at bare minimum, know this: if your child assaults another child, you, as the parent, can be sued and a claim can be made against your homeowners insurance policy resulting in higher premiums and litigation that could last for years.
7. Make sure students walking have reflective materials on backpacks. Just as summer has almost come and gone, before we know it, we will be "falling back," meaning less daylight. Less, daylight combined with more children walking the streets to and from school is a dangerous combination. Minimize vehicular accidents involving pedestrians by making sure your child has some type of reflective decals on his/her backpacks or somewhere else on their person.
8. Keep eye out for uneven pavement. Children who walk to school should be familiar with their route and will ultimately get to know where problematic portions of uneven pavement on the sidewalk are. Encourage your children to tell you where those problematic sidewalk portions that constitute tripping hazards are. In turn, alert your township which has a duty to maintain and fix the sidewalks. Once the township is on notice and fails to do something about it, the township would be hard-pressed to disclaim responsibility if something happened later on.
9. Don't use handicap spaces. Unless you are authorized to use such a space, please do not use those spaces even to drop your children off. It forces those with disabilities to walk greater distances or put themselves in harms way when there is no real justification for doing so. Further it's rude and illegal.
10. Be aware of your surroundings. As a personal injury lawyer, I see all types of cases and believe it or not, parents do sue other parents for the negligent acts of their children. For example, parents have been sued where their child was running in the hallway at school and accidently bumping into someone who was coming around the corner causing them injuries. Obviously, we can't control our kids once they are in school, but reinforcing common courtesy and safety can save everyone a lot of potential heartache and money.
The Law Office of Daniel J. McCarey, LLC has office locations in Scotch Plains, NJ and New York City. We handle car, motorcycle and truck accidents, construction accidents, dog bites, product liability, wrongful death and medical malpractice claims. For more information, please call (908) 939-8055 or visit our website at http:www//mccareylaw.com