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Keeping kids safe on the walk to school

With school back in session now in Colorado, mornings are a lot more hectic for everyone, whether it's drivers, parents or school kids. Not only is there heavier traffic from buses and school carpools, but for many parents, there's the worry about their children's safety on the walks to and from school.

The frightening part is that this concern is by no means unfounded. One out of every five children killed in traffic accidents in 2015 were pedestrians. Just how at risk are your kids, and how can you help keep them safe?

Who suffers most?

Pedestrians are 50 percent more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than a car's passengers or driver, due mostly to the lack of protection. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 5,376 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in 2015, which means that one pedestrian died every 1.6 hours on average that year. That same year, emergency rooms saw nearly 129,000 pedestrians needing medical treatment for crash-related injuries.

While older pedestrians -- those aged 65 and above -- do account for almost a fifth of all pedestrian deaths, children under the age of 15 are some of the most at-risk as well. So what factors increase dangers for pedestrians?

Pedestrian risk factors

The likelihood of severe pedestrian injury or death increases:

  • In urban areas
  • At night
  • At non-intersection locations
  • As vehicle speed increases

Alcohol, however, is the number one risk factor, with nearly 50 percent of pedestrian traffic accident deaths involving drinking on the part of either the pedestrian or the driver. Obviously, your child is highly unlikely to be the one drinking, and you unfortunately have little control over whether a driver makes the selfish decision to imbibe and then get behind the wheel. Is there anything you can do to help keep decrease the dangers to your children when they're out walking?

Decreasing risk

There are things you can do when you're walking with your children -- or things you can encourage your older children to remember when they're out by themselves -- to help improve their odds of avoiding becoming a victim in a pedestrian accident, like:

  • Crossing streets at intersections and designated crosswalks whenever possible
  • Obeying traffic signals
  • Walking on a sidewalk or path when possible
  • When it's necessary to walk on a road, face traffic and stay on the shoulder

Younger children are unlikely to be out at night by themselves, but if your teenager is going to be out walking later in the evening, you may want to encourage him or her to carry a flashlight and wear reflective clothing to increase visibility.

When a pedestrian accident occurs

Of course, you and your children can only do such much to protect yourselves. No matter how many precautions you take, you can't possible control what another driver chooses to do. If someone decides to drink and drive or a driver gets distracted by checking text messages, you or your children could pay the price for another's negligence. If such a tragic event does occur, there are professionals in Colorado who can offer guidance on seeking compensation to help cover medical expenses and more.

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