Young children are, by nature, full of curiosity, and their sense of danger is not fully developed, which is why they are particularly prone to accidents. Growing up, while they do develop a sense of danger, they are also influenced by other factors, such as the need to show off, a reaction to laws and to the advice of adults, and the appeal of adventure, which results in them still remaining accident-prone. For these reasons, it is important that they learn from a young age how to protect themselves (and not to put themselves in harm’s way).
From preschool age, children spend a good part of their day at Kindergarden or school, which results in a high percentage of children’s accidents happening there or during the transportation of the children to and from these places.
- We should teach our children from a very young age all about road safety. We should also, however, bear in mind, that children under the age of 8 do not have the required maturity to practise what they have been taught. For this reason, they should be accompanied by adults to and from school and to the bus stop. We must always hold the young children by the hand, and have them walking on the inside part of the sidewalk. Finally, we should not forget that children learn by observing, so we should set a good example by following the rules of road safety.
- If we are the ones driving our children to school we should teach them to always be seated at the back of the car and wear their seat belt. The car dealerships and car accessories stores can suggest a suitable seat for each child, taking into account their height and weight. We should also teach our children to enter and exit the car using the door nearest to the sidewalk. Furthermore, it is important that we explain to our children that they should never put their head out of the car window because doing so puts them in grave danger. If our children are taking the school bus, we, as well as the school, should explain to them why they should also wear their seat belts while on the bus, and be very careful when getting on or off the bus.
- If our children are riding their bike or motorbike to school they should know that they have the same responsibilities as the other vehicles on the road. It is imperative that they always wear a helmet and the appropriate equipment, (suitably adapted to their body type), and should also know, and follow, the traffic rules. Their two-wheelers should be in good condition and properly equipped with mirrors and lights, so that they are visible in the dark. In order to ride a motorbike, they must have reached their 17th birthday and have acquired a legal permit.
- Children who go to school on foot should wear light coloured clothing (or clothes made of reflective material), in order to be visible to the passing drivers, especially at night.
- The gates of all the schools should have a protective railing, so that the children do not venture onto the road.
- The school’s traffic warden plays a very big role in the prevention of children’s accidents. He is responsible for the regulation of traffic in the area around the school during the students’ arrival and departure. In order, though, for the instructions of the school’s traffic warden to accomplish their purpose, the parents should explain to their children how important it is to comply with his directions, and the drivers should also respect his presence and follow his instructions.
- All schools should regularly check their premises and facilities so that they are safe for the children. This is something that the parents of the students can help through correct observations and constructive suggestions. Furthermore, the school grounds should be devoid of rusty or sharp objects on which children might get hurt (e.g. rusty railings). If the school has a chemistry lab, this should remain locked apart from the hours of the lesson during which there is a responsible educator in the lab.
- At the start of each school year there should be an open discussion conducted between teachers and students on the subject of the prevention of children’s accidents, mainly on school grounds. The children’s ideas sometimes prove to be extremely useful and promote the creation of a safer school environment.
- It is imperative that all schools have a fire system. Moreover, every year the schools should exercise the safe abandonment of the building in case of fire.
- In the event of an earthquake there is a high risk of accidents, not only due to the seismic vibrations but also because of the panic that often ensues. The only way to control such a situation is to hold regular earthquake exercises.
- If the school has a playground or a gym it should make regular checks, in order to make sure that the equipment (swings, slides, monkey bars, basketball hoops) and the surrounding areas meet the safety regulations. The children should also be informed about the proper use of the existing equipment by their coaches.
- The children should be warned not to, and there should be a proper check to make sure that they don’t, bring dangerous and sharp objects to school.
- During break time an adult should always be present.
- All schools should have a fully equipped medicine cabinet in order to be able to administer first aid, with someone responsible for that, and if possible a nurse. It is also important for the parents to inform the school’s clinic if their child happens to have any allergies. Furthermore, the telephone numbers of the closest Health Centers or Hospitals should be posted in plain view. Kindergarden personnel, Teachers, Professors and Coaches should, ideally, be trained in basic first aid administration. The older students can also be trained.
As important as the infrastructure provided by the adults is for the prevention of children’s accidents, it is equally important for the children to learn, from the youngest possible age, to recognize the dangers and protect themselves. Be careful, though, of overprotection, because it can easily have the opposite result.