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By Jordan W. Charness

“My poor daughter” said Peter. “Just the other day, she went into the drugstore and came out crying.”

“What is the matter? Is she ill?” I wanted to know.

“Oh no, it’s nothing like that,” said Peter with a chuckle. “She went in to buy a chocolate bar and saw the big displays selling back-to-school supplies. The summer to her seems over and she doesn’t know where it went. Then she came home and found her mother on the phone setting up a car pool to take her to school each day. The poor girl went to her room and sulked for an hour.”

Yes, school is back. The last few days of the holidays were spent frantically getting the children ready for school, and making sure they had proper clothes and school bags filled with pens, pencils, paper and an assortment of electronic devices. Many kids these days even go to school with cell phones so that their parents can keep in constant touch, for safety’s sake.

For many children, a school bus is only used for class trips, as they are taken to school in some sort of car pool. Drive past any school the first thing in the morning and you’ll see rows of cars dropping off children in front of the school. These first few minutes are probably the most dangerous time of your child’s day.

In the first place, there is a lot of traffic converging in front of one or two entrances. Since there’s not enough room directly in front of the school gate, parents are forced to park up and down the block. Many just let their children out and let them to find their own way for the last few hundred metres. While this may work fine for older children, it can be downright dangerous for the younger ones.

I’ve seen parents park across the street from the school and expect their children to cross in the middle of the block to get to the school yard. Many times the children just run out from the side of the car and dash into the street. The street is usually quite busy at this time of day with car pool drivers looking to find a place to pull over, not giving 100 per cent of their attention to the road.

Those at most risk seem to be children in grades two, three and four. Often the parent and child feel that the kid is too old to be walked across the street by the parent, but in reality, he or she is too young and too excited to cross with proper care. A child this age dropped off in the middle of the block and left to make his or her own way to school without proper supervision is a recipe for disaster.

Parents can’t properly supervise from the driver’s seat of their car! A warning to “WATCH OUT” yelled through the closed windows of a car will do nothing to save their child. And parents certainly don’t want to be a witness to this type of horrible accident.

Even the little children who are taken into school by a parent holding their hand can be at risk as well. The risk may not be in walking the last few hundred metres but in the brief drive to school itself. According to law, all children under the age of five must be properly strapped into an appropriate child safety seat. Most carpoolers have a safety seat for their own children of that age but rarely have enough for all the little children in the car. This is something parents should think about while setting up a carpool.

Even if you do have enough safety seats in the car, don’t leave it to the little ones to click themselves in and assume that they know what they are doing. As a safety measure, many of the seats are not designed to be opened and closed by little fingers and require some adult help to do it properly.

No doubt you’re aware that strapping two children into one seat belt is illegal and dangerous. But strapping even one child into one seat belt incorrectly can be dangerous as well. Read your car’s manual to find out if the shoulder belt is suitable for the child being strapped in. If it isn’t, the child should probably be in a safety seat.

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