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Safety expert shares 3 words to keep kids safe while walking to school

SafeKids of Northeast Florida emphasizes importance of knowing road rules

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The death of an 11-year-old Jacksonville boy who was hit by a car on University Boulevard after being dropped at his bus stop has raised concerns about bus stop safety.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 490 children were killed in 2012 after being hit by cars while walking. Half of those kids were teenagers.

Cynthia Dennis with SafeKids of Northeast Florida said teens are the most likely to be walking by themselves near a road.

“And they are the ones that are distracted,” Dennis said. “They've got their devices, and what we really need to teach them is to just get in the habit of always putting the device down when they're crossing the street.”

Dennis reminded parents of the three words they should tell their children about crossing the street: Left, right, left.

“It's important for them to stop, look to the left, look to the right and then look back to the left again,” Dennis said. “Make sure the coast is clear before they step out.”

Making eye contact with drivers is also a good habit, Dennis said.

“It's important to make sure that they see us,” she said. “We're also looking for cars that might be turning or backing out.”

She said it's never a good idea to cross between cars.

“It's important to cross at the crosswalk, so we can take advantage of the crossing guard or signal, whatever might be there,” Dennis said. “That's where people expect us to be crossing. Kids are not expected to cross in the middle of the street.”

She encouraged parents to walk or bike their child's route to school with the child.

“Just to make sure that they know where they're going (and) they're following the rules,” Dennis said.

If there's a sidewalk or path, kids should use it. But if there isn't a sidewalk, kids should walk on the left side of the road as far over as they can get, Dennis said.

Her organization has a visibility campaign that passes out reflective stickers at back-to-school events. Dennis said reflectors make children visible from 500 feet away, which is particularly important during this time of the year when it's dark when children are headed to school.

Dennis also encouraged drivers to pay attention to their surroundings.

“As drivers, when we're in a neighborhood or we're in a school zone, be alert, be aware that kids might dart out unexpectedly,” she said.

For more information on child safety, visit safekids.org.

About the Authors:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.