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Schools open here today; be alert for students

The 2014-2015 school year begins today in Jamestown, and the safety of students in the community should be kept in mind.

Even before a child leaves for school in the morning, parents should keep an eye on that child’s backpack. Overloaded backpacks lead to more than 7,300 injuries a year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight, a figure that varies depending on the child’s strength and fitness. Backpacks should be worn with both straps over the strongest mid-back muscles.

The National Safety Council says if walking to school, children should stay in groups, and if possible, an adult should accompany them. Children should always walk on the sidewalk or against traffic if no sidewalk is available, and look left, right and left again when crossing the street. Walking across the street instead of running gives motorists more time to react, and crosswalks or street corners should be used when crossing.

If a student is riding a bike to school, he or she should always wear a helmet and be aware of the rules of the road. Wearing bright colors makes bicyclists more visible to motorists.

When getting on or off a school bus, a safe distance should always be kept between the child and the bus so the driver can see where the child is.

Finally, all motorists should be aware that there are going to be a large number of children going to and from school on city streets, and children are not always the most responsible pedestrians. All 50 states have laws against passing a stopped school bus in both directions of traffic. Drivers should not block crosswalks and should obey restricted speed limits in school zones. The NSC says the most common cause of car-bicycle collisions occur when drivers are turning, but other common causes include riders exiting driveways or from behind parked cars or other obstructions. When parking on the street, check the side mirrors for bicyclists before opening the vehicle’s door.

While all these tips seem basic, they can all save the life of a child someday.

Good luck to students as they begin another year of learning, friendship and fun.

(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)