Sheriff offers back to school safety advice
By Laura Collins
Published in News on August 24, 2010 2:35 PM
Along with the school supplies, new clothes and backpacks, Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said safety should also be a priority.
For college students, Winders said it's important to remember that even though it's a college campus, it's still susceptible to crime.
"College campuses are extremely vulnerable to crime because of their openness," Winders said. "It's difficult to keep buildings and dorm rooms locked because people are constantly coming and going. Another contributing factor is that students tend to develop a false sense of security because of the seemingly peaceful surroundings."
He added that campus crimes can take many forms including theft, date rape, and drugs.
Suggestions on how college students can better protect and educate themselves through campus safety education:
* Never post information as to your whereabouts on your dorm room door. If an intruder knows that you are away - it's an open invitation for them to break in.
* Even if leaving your room for only a few minutes, lock your door.
* When studying in out-of-the way places, inform campus security as to your whereabouts.
* When meeting a study partner for the first time, make arrangements to meet in a public place.
* Encourage campus security to establish a photo identification program to deter outsiders from entering school buildings.
* Work with your local law enforcement to organize a safety education program to teach incoming students the do's and don'ts of campus safety.
* Familiarize yourself with emergency call box locations.
* Learn to trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, get out of it. Don't allow anyone to violate your comfort zone.
Winders also has safety tips for children who will be walking back and forth to school this year.
"Parents can teach their children the following safety tips which will inform (their) youngsters of the danger signs to watch for and avoid when walking between school and home," he said. "Drivers should be cautious of children walking back and forth to school. We can all learn from the safety tips and abide by them to make Wayne County safer for all."
* While walking, remember to always travel with a friend. Two heads are better than one, especially if there's an emergency.
* A stranger is anyone you or your parents don't know well.
* You or your friend must never take candy, money, medicine or anything else from a stranger.
* If a stranger in a car asks you questions, don't get close to the car (you could get pulled in) - and never get in the car.
* Strangers can be very tricky - they can ask you to walk with them to "show" them something; they can offer to pay for your video game, or ask you to help them find a lost dog or cat.
* Don't tell anyone your name or address when you're walking and don't think that because someone knows your name that they know you - they may just be looking at your name printed on your lunch box, school bag or T-shirt.
* If you think you're in any danger, yell, and run to the nearest store or "safe house" or back to school.
* Always tell your parents or teacher if a stranger has approached you.
"By taking the time to carefully prepare your child on how to handle these situations, you can insure your child's safety whether they are on their way to school or home, playing on a playground or riding their bikes," he said.
For students who aren't walking to school and will be taking the bus, Winders said, caution is always important when buses are present. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 19 school-aged children die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year and more school-aged pedestrians have been killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day.
"Children are often eager to get off the school bus because they are excited to tell their parents about all of the fun they had at school that day," Winders said. "It is crucial that parents reinforce the school bus safety rules children learn at school."
He added that parents can drive their child's bus route with them to practice the proper safety precautions they can take to help ensure their child has a safe ride to and from school.
* Always arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early.
* While the bus is approaching make sure to stand at least three steps away from the curb, wait until the bus has come to a complete stop, the door opens, and the bus driver says that it's OK to board.
* Always walk on the sidewalk when preparing to cross the street near a bus. Make eye contact with the driver so that you are sure he or she sees you.
* Never walk behind the bus.
* If you are walking beside the bus, walk at least three steps away.
* Use the handrail when entering and exiting the bus. Take extra precautions to make sure that clothing with drawstrings and book bags do not get caught in the hand rail or door.
* Never stop to pick something up that you have dropped when a bus is stopped. Tell the bus driver or wait until the bus has driven off to avoid not being seen by the driver.
Winders also warns drivers to be cautious around school buses and to never pass a school bus when there are flashing red lights and the stop arm is extended as it is a sign that children are getting on or off the bus. Motorists must wait until the red lights stop flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.