‘Heads up’: It’s back to school time

COMMENTARY
Capt. Jeff Bernard
Commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

This week most students in and around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, like most students throughout Hawaii, will be heading back to school.

We need everyone to be aware — committed to driving and walking carefully (“heads up, phones down”). And we need everyone to please be extra cautious and patient. For many of our military families, this may be the first time some young students will be attending a new school here in Hawaii. With all the road construction going on near our base in the weeks ahead, we’ll have extra challenges for workers and students alike. Vigilance, awareness and patience are the right combination to prevent accidents.

Nationwide, the National Safety Council reports that 61 children are hit by cars every day in the United States — most often in the early morning or mid-afternoon; in other words, before or after school.

Parents, please have a conversation with your children about safety — going to and from school, always crossing at intersections, safely using the bus, and practicing safety on the playground. Be sure your children know their phone number, address, and how to get in touch with you or another trusted adult. All kids need to know the basics, too: how and when to call 9-1-1, and why it’s not OK to accept rides from strangers. Girls and boys who ride their bikes to school must have a helmet, wear bright clothing or reflective gear, and ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic. In recent years, due to an increase in texting, teenagers are increasingly impacted — literally — by a driver, including in school zones.

We have focused on combatting and eliminating distracted driving and distracted walking here at the Joint Base. New videos on our Face-book site are part of our safety strategy. But the most effective way to communicate the message is with shipmates and wingmen, through the chain of command, and with families around the dinner table. Make safety part of the discussion.

We need everyone to get the message, not only during back-to-school season but also year-round:

• Never walk near cars or drive while using your phone, including (especially) while texting.

• If you need to text, stop walking or driving, and always be aware of your surroundings.

• Never cross the street while distracted by an electronic device, including wearing headphones. Always remove headphones, earbuds, etc. when crossing roadways.

• When crossing in front of stopped cars, make eye contact to be sure drivers see you before crossing in front of them.

Most of the “heads up” advice above is common sense, but we can all benefit from a reminder! As back-to-school season kicks in we will see inevitable delays on our roads, including near schools. Let’s have patience and understanding. Safety is our top priority.

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Category: News