Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Hamad Trauma Center, through its Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP), is urging the public to take extra care on the roads this month due to the increase in traffic as a result of children returning to school for the start of the new academic year.

Tens of thousands of children begin their new school year this month and the higher volume of cars, buses, and pedestrians means road users are at an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents and injury. The HIPP is encouraging all families and residents to be extra cautious and is offering the following road safety advice:

  • Be aware of school buses. Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm indicate the school bus is stopping to load or unload children. Slow down to a complete stop and keep an eye out for children walking in the street before proceeding, especially where there are no sidewalks.
  • Adults should be good role models. Always buckle up, wear a helmet when biking, and always follow pedestrian road safety rules. Do not text or talk on your mobile phone while driving.
  • Children should be supervised. Children, especially those under 10 years of age, should be supervised as they walk or bike to school, or as they wait at the school bus stop.
  • Ensure safety seats are of the proper specification. All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Obey traffic rules. Slow down and obey all traffic laws and speed limits.

According to Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of HIPP, which is the community outreach arm of HMC’s Trauma Surgery Section, it’s important for parents to teach children about road safety.

“We caution parents to be realistic about their child’s understanding and awareness when walking around traffic. Children can be impulsive and less cautious around vehicles. We recommended that only children older than 10 years of age walk or bike to school without adult supervision. If children are walking or biking to school, it is a good idea for them to wear bright-coloured clothing so motorists can easily see them. Bicycle helmets should fit properly and be strapped in place to reduce the risk of brain injury in the event of a fall or a collision,” explained Dr. Consunji.

Dr. Consunji says the beginning of the school year is an opportune time for families to turn their attention to safety, be it developing home safety plans in case of emergency or reviewing school bus safety tips.

“All children, 12 years and younger, must be properly restrained in the rear seat of vehicles. They must either be wearing a seatbelt or be in a car seat that is appropriate for their age and size. It is essential that all children are properly restrained, and this includes when traveling on a school bus,” said Dr. Consunji.

“If your child travels by bus, it is important to review school bus safety tips with him or her; such as waiting for the bus to stop before approaching the curb, boarding and exiting at designated locations, and remaining seated while the bus is in motion,” he added.

Dr. Consunji also urged motorists to slow down in and around school zones that have a reduced speed limit (usually 30 kph), especially during drop-off and pick-up times. He also recommends that drivers walk around their vehicle to check for young pedestrians before backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.