Two Close Calls Are Two Too Many

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As school children, most of us were taught to look both ways before crossing the street, whether on a bicycle or on foot. It was sound, safety advice. We were also taught to use designated crosswalks, and even walk our bikes through particularly busy intersections to avoid being injured.

As the Rim country grows, we can all see the amount of traffic is increasing, especially around our schools. Every weekday morning, about 3,000 children leave their homes and make their way to Payson area classrooms. Parents and grandparents send children out the door to catch a bus, walk or ride a bike to school. These children face hundreds of young high school drivers, parents and business people in a rush to get to work, roads that don't get the funding they need, and a scarcity of sidewalks. It can all add up to a deadly combination for our children.

This week, two school children were injured during this dangerous commute. Fortunately, their injuries were not life threatening, but the broken bones and pain are no less real for them, nor was the dread that surely swept over the hearts of their parents as they rushed to the hospital. This common fear should be enough for all of us, not just parents, to take action now before something more terrible happens.

Rim Country Middle School Principal Frank Larby expressed concern that almost none of his students wear helmets as they ride their bikes through these congested thoroughfares. He is also working with his staff and parents to educate children about safety rules that can save their lives. But teaching children about traffic safety needs to start before they step foot on a bike peddle or street.

The Payson Police Department periodically offers bike safety and information classes and bike safety rodeos. They also offer a free pamphlet called Bicycle Safety. It is available at the police department and is a useful tool for both children and adults.

Police Lt. Don Engler says the most important thing parents need to teach children is that while riding a bike, they must obey the same traffic rules as cars. These include things like stopping for stop signs and traffic lights; riding with traffic -- not against it, riding at night with a white light in front and a red light at the rear, and yielding when necessary. He also recommends children use reflectors and wear bright colored clothing.

Parents have busy lives trying to support children and make ends meet. It might be easy to assume our children know these rules. If you have children leaving in the morning for school, take a moment this week to make sure they have the skills they need to make it home again -- safe and sound.

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