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Back to school safety tips for a new year

Courtesy of 6th AMW Safety

Well, the palm tree leaves aren't turning color and there's no dew on any pumpkins, yet. Nevertheless, backpacks and lunch boxes are being purchased as kids anticipate the beginning of another new school year. The annual ritual can be a safe and fun process by adhering to some basic safety rules.

School bus transportation is safe. In fact, buses are safer than cars! Even so, last year, approximately 26 students were killed and another 9,000 were injured in incidents involving school buses. More often than not, these deaths and injuries didn't occur in a crash, but as the pupils were entering and exiting the bus.

School bus related accidents killed 164 people and injured an estimated 18,000 nationwide in 1999, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and General Estimates System. Over the past six years, about 70 percent of deaths in fatal school bus related crashes were occupants of vehicles other than the school bus and 20 percent were pedestrians. About four percent were school bus passengers and two percent were school bus drivers.

Of the pedestrians killed in school bus related crashes over this period, approximately 77 percent were struck by the school bus.

Of the people injured in school bus related crashes from 1994 through 1999, about 44 percent were school bus passengers, nine percent were school bus drivers and another 43 percent were occupants of other vehicles.

Parents should remember these safety tips:

Riding the Bus

  • Have a safe place for your children to wait for the bus, away from traffic and the street.
  • Children need to stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals them to enter.
  • When being dropped off, children need to exit the bus and walk five giant steps away from the bus. Also, remember that the bus driver can see them best when they are well away from the bus.
  • Children need to use the handrail to enter and exit the bus.
  • Be aware of the street traffic around you. Drivers are required to follow certain rules of the road concerning school buses, but not all do.

Walking and biking to school

Even if children don't ride in a motor vehicle, they still have to protect themselves. Because of minimal supervision, young pedestrians face a wide variety of decision-making situations and dangers while walking to and from school. Here are a few basic safety tips for them to follow:

  • Mind all traffic signals and the crossing guards -- never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.
  • Walk your bike through intersections.
  • Walk with a buddy.
  • Wear bright or reflective material...it makes you more visible to street traffic.

Operating or riding in a car

  • You might have heard that most traffic crashes occur close to home. It's true.
  • Safety belts are the best form of protection passengers have in the event of a crash. They can lower the risk of injury by 45 percent.
  • You are four times more likely to be seriously injured or killed if ejected from the vehicle in a crash.
  • Everyone needs to be buckled up properly. That means older children in seat belts, younger children in booster seats and little children in child safety seats.
  • Don't speed. Remember, school zones are posted at lower speeds for a reason. Also, during early morning hours it may be dark and difficult to see people walking or riding bikes.
  • Watch for children crossing the street at crosswalks and other areas. The purpose of the crossing guard is not to ensure vehicles keep moving, it is to stop traffic for pedestrians.
  • Security Forces will be monitoring school access roads and routes with speed-measuring radar units. Speeding violations in school zones require stiffer penalties, so be extra attentive of your speed.
  • Be aware of locations on your route where school buses stop.
  • Remember that traffic must stop in both directions for a bus showing red flashing lights.

So, many are opting to take short trips to destinations in their home states, with Florida remaining a major destination. With its abundance of water, theme parks and attractions, things are buzzing in the Sunshine State.

Mrs. Gurrera said the important thing military members need to know about Ticket and Tours is that it is geared for and tailored to military needs. Many special discounts for hotels and admissions have been secured by contract, and having someone you can depend on to make arrangements or help deal with problems is a big advantage to trying to deal with a service remotely via the Internet, for example.

"We are there to take care of them if some problem comes up," she said, adding the office is on call 24 hours. Coupled with some of the best deals anywhere for active duty and retired military, the service is hard to beat, she said.

The other advantage is those booking through the service can be sure they are not sent to undesirable hotels, attractions or areas.

"We visit every place we recommend to make sure it meets our standards," said Mrs. Gurrera. "If it doesn't (meet standards) we don't say anything bad about it, we just choose not to recommend it."

Tickets and Tours deals with about an even split of active duty and retired, with perhaps a slight edge to retired. Cruise trips are popular, with the Caribbean being the most requested, followed perhaps by Alaska.

But long journeys to far-off places take a backseat to the volume done on simple trips, like to Orlando attractions or even a night at the ball game or a concert, said Mrs. Gurrera.

"We have some great deals with the St. Pete Times forum for concert tickets and the Devil Rays and Lightning have been great about working with us," she said. "We have really made progress in getting these organizations to help us put together great deals."

And while arranging a trip to nearby Busch Gardens may not seem like a complicated process, Mrs. Gurrera points out that often her agency is dealing with logistics that rival the military missions that run out of MacDill.

Her office is working now on a group of 1,000 visiting servicemembers who will be spending the day at the Tampa theme park. Making sure everything goes smoothly is her personal mission.

The main objective here is to make sure the customer has the best experience they can possibly get," said Mrs. Gurrera. "They come in looking forward to having a good time with the family and their hopes are so high, we have to work to make sure their vision comes true and that the trip is memorable and enjoyable."




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