With local students starting a new school year over the next couple of weeks, the American Red Cross has steps everyone can follow to make the trip back to the classrooms a safe one.

"We want all students to focus on safety, with special care for those going to school for the first time," said Executive Director for the Red Cross in North Louisiana Michelle Davison. "Whether the students are riding, biking or walking to school, we want them to arrive and return safely."

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand back from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Some other safety tips:

  • Wait to board the bus until it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has signaled to get on.
  • Tell children they should only board their bus - never al alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

If children ride to school in a car, they should always wear a seat belt. Other car safety tips:

  • Younger children should use car seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4'9") and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
  • If a teenager is driving to school, parents should mandate that he or she use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
  • Some students ride their bikes to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.
  • When students are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection. If possible, use a route with crossing guards.
  • Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

TIPS FOR DRIVERS

Know what the yellow and red bus signals mean and be aware that children are out walking or biking to school. yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.

Slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones.

Parents should also make sure the child knows his or her phone number, address, how to get in touch with parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult, and how to dial 9-1-1. They should also teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don't know.

TAKE A FIRST AID CLASS

Red Cross training can give someone the confidence and skills to help with everyday emergencies, from paper cuts to school sports injuries. A variety of online and in-class courses are available at redcross.org/takeaclass.