By Annette Campbell It's a hectic time of year right now. We're mostly all back at work again after the Christmas break and all the kids have returned to school. But for the Year 7 students starting high school, it's unfortunately a risky time of year, too. Statistics show that an average of five young high school pedestrians are injured every week on their way to or from school, in NSW alone. And the number of transport-related casualties during school travel times increases specifically during the first years of high school.
Dr Maureen Owen, from the NSW-based organisation Youthsafe — committed to preventing serious injury in young people when they are travelling, working or playing sport — says this is an alarming national issue. "The risk is for young people Australia-wide," she explains. "When students start high school, the rate of traffic injury (an injury that involves a vehicle) increases. So it could be when young people are travelling on foot, by bike, car or bus. "We know that boys are also more likely to be injured as pedestrians than girls — that's because they're more likely to be out and about making journeys on foot than girls who are more likely to get a lift. "It's also due to distraction. Students are thinking about what they're going to be doing at school, not concentrating on the actual journey. Lots of things can distract them and they might be rushing because they're late for school or for their bus or train. "Also, at high school the school days become longer and they're carrying heavier bags, so fatigue can be a factor too. At the end of the day they're tired ... which helps to explain why there're a lot more injuries after school." Dr Owen says that in an effort to reduce the risk and keep our young people safe, Youthsafe has produced a new fact sheet: "On the way to high school — tips for safer travel". "Drivers do have to be very aware of risks during school travel times; parents play a critical part and students need to start taking responsibility for their own safety but it's a whole community approach that will make student travel safer,' she says. Dr Owen says there are three things parents should do to help keep their children safe:
- Talk with your kids about all aspects of the journey — the route they are going to take, allowing plenty of time for the journey and using public transport safely.
- Make the trip with them. It's very busy on the roads during school travel times and also very busy on public transport and once you've experienced it, you're then in a position to understand the risks that they face everyday.
- Discuss a back-up plan so they know what to do when things go wrong."This is the time students are at particular risk of road injury, but there's a lot we can do to make sure injuries don't happen ... like being prepared and preparing our children," she says.Visit the Youthsafe website for lots more information, including fact sheets. The address is: www.youthsafe.org. Or you can phone them on: (02) 9809 4615.Related Stories