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September 06, 2010

Back to School Safety

headlights in fogIt's back to school time. Kids excitedly put on new backpacks and wonder who will be in their classes while parents worry about their child's safety. And with good reason. Each year around 800 school-aged children are killed in motor vehicle accidents during normal school commute hours. Pedestrian and bicycle accidents make up 22 percent of that number.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic accidents are the single most common cause of death for kids ages 4 - 18. Fall is the most dangerous time for pedestrians. And your car's headlights could be contributing to the danger.

Did you know that your automotive bulbs can dim up to 20 percent over time? And that it's so gradual many drivers won't notice? As daylight hours shorten, children can be walking to school during low-visibility times. The following tips can help your kids stay safe:

  • Encourage kids to wear clothes that are easily seen. All-black ensembles may be cool, but it makes it harder to see a child crossing the street.
  • Put reflective tape on their backpack if it doesn't already have it.
  • Make sure they walk to school in groups if at all possible.
  • Emphasize the dangers of wearing headphones or texting while walking. Their safety depends on their awareness of their surroundings.
  • If they wait at a bus stop, remind them to watch traffic and never step out into the street or play at the edge of the sidewalk. One distracted driver swerving a little too close is all it takes.

"We were astounded when we learned about the tragic number of vehicle accidents that take place this time of the year that involve school-aged children," said Joe Verbanic, Marketing Manager for Sylvania. "I cannot stress how important it is to talk about vehicle safety with new drivers as well as equip parents with some simple safety tips."

To make your vehicle more safe for you and pedestrians, Sylvania automotive lighting recommends the following:

  • Mark Your Calendar – Check your headlights before the school season starts. Think you’ll forget? Have your children put a sticker on the family calendar to serve as a reminder.
  • Do a Spot Check – Lights don’t just burn out, they dim overtime. Park on a level surface facing five feet from a building wall or your garage door. Then, turn your headlights on. If the circles of light are bright and white, you are good to go! If they’re yellow or dim, it’s time to swap out your bulbs.
  • Upgrade Your Lighting – If you want to see better and further down the road, consider upgrading. SilverStar® ULTRA bulbs by Sylvania provide up to 40 percent increased down road visibility, up to 50 percent increased side road visibility and up to 50 percent brighter light compared to worn standard halogen headlights, which is what is most likely in your vehicle. These bulbs deliver the whitest and brightest light of all Sylvania halogen products.
  • Avoid Double Trouble – Always change your headlights in pairs. If one has dimmed or burnt out, it’s likely that the other one is not far behind.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Ask – Know your vehicle year, make and model and use a catalog to find the part number needed. If you are having trouble, ask an assistant for help – that’s what they are there for and chances are, they will quickly be able to help you find the right bulbs for your car.

While you're checking your headlights, don't forget your other routine safety checks, too (breaks, tire pressure and tread, oil). Let's make this school year a safer one. What are you doing to get ready?

By Becky Scott, contributor

Photo by keepitsurreal used under creative commons license.

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