Safely Back to School

Safely Back to School

Wearing reflective clothing and crossing the road with care – these are the ground rules for children who are not accompanied to school by their parents. Read on to find out a transport expert’s advice for travelling with children.

31. 8. 2018 Škoda World

In many countries, the end of summer means the beginning of the school year. This is a time that always poses risks to children of all ages, whether they’re being given a lift, cycling or walking. “It is a period of transition for children and parents alike, and any change carries risks. In addition, there are thousands of first-graders who are just learning how to get to school, so these are inexperienced new road users,” explains Robert Šťastný, ŠKODA Road Safety Research expert and specialist. Pedestrian crossings are fraught with danger.


Children should be especially careful in spots where their view is obstructed when crossing the road, perhaps because of inconsiderately parked cars. This is particularly true for the very youngest schoolchildren, who are smaller than the average car. Having said that, many older children also often have difficulty seeing around vans and SUVs. Crossing multi-lane roads where the speed limits are higher is also risky. Accidents can easily happen if a car stops to let a pedestrian cross, but cars in the next lane over keep going because they haven’t clocked the situation. Adults should make sure that children are aware of this as soon as possible. You can never be too careful.


It is vital for children to learn early on how to use pavements and roads properly. While schools often teach this to children, parents shouldn’t take it for granted and should themselves shoulder responsibility for their children’s traffic awareness. Online materials can make their job easier. In the Czech Republic, a mobile app has been created to explain to children how to cross roads safely.  Robert Šťastný has been ŠKODA Road Safety Research expert and specialist for several years now. He was formerly the head of BESIP, the state’s road safety organisation, which helped to stem the accident growth rate in the Czech Republic under his leadership.

Robert Šťastný
ŠKODA Road Safety Research expert

Buy your kids reflectors and, if they’re cyclists, a helmet

Reflective clothing clearly enhances children’s safety as they make their way to school. Reflectors, now commonplace, are aesthetically embedded in shoes, jackets and school bags. Various reflective armbands and pendants are also available, so you’ll be able to find what you need no matter whether you have a toddler or a teenager at home.


Children who cycle to school are required to wear a helmet. Šťastný says that children in the countryside have an edge here as they are “much more likely to walk or cycle to school, so they are much more experienced and independent”.

“Countless traffic accidents could be avoided if people stopped underestimating safety principles and tried to behave better on roads,” says Šťastný. In his opinion, there has been an upward trajectory in traffic accidents involving older drivers who fall ill at the wheel. The number of accidents caused by drivers using smartphones has also been on the up for years.

The danger called smartphone

Yet drivers continue to take risks. When they reply to messages, surf the internet, or make calls while holding their phone, they are completely distracted from the traffic. The same can often be said of pedestrians – they cannot concentrate on what is happening around them if their eyes are glued to their mobile or if they are listening to music with earphones. For teenage schoolchildren, tripping is the least of their worries when their heads are down as they make comments on Facebook statuses on the go. Loud music, on the other hand, can tune out a vehicle leaving a car park. Focusing on the real world rather than the virtual one in your phone is particularly important when you need to cross the road. Never lose sight of the fact that an accident could end in tragedy and there is no reset button.

Even if you drive your child to school, you still need to be alert to the dangers. Šťastný explains that parents are more in tune with child safety in cars these days, but immediately adds that they are still prone to big mistakes. “Children who are driven to school, for example, often forgo the seat belt. Parents wrongly believe that slow urban speeds mean there is no danger. Likewise, many children only have a booster seat when they should be strapped into a full-size child seat.” Remember that everyone in the car must be buckled up, no matter whether you’re going round the block or round the world. Fastened seat-belts are a must for all safety systems to work properly. This is the only way they can help in an accident – all current ŠKODAs boast a five-star evaluation in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Traffic expert Robert Šťastný has prepared some useful advice to round off this article: five tips for those who drive their children to school, and five for the parents of young pedestrians and cyclists.

Driving to school

Place your child in a seat with a backrest. These seats are suitable for children up to about 10 years of age. If your child is ashamed to sit in it, show them how similar it is to a racing car seat. A booster seat is obviously another option, but be aware that it will not provide protection for the head and neck.

Fasten your children’s seat belts even if you are only driving round the corner at a relatively slow speed.

Put school bags and the other items you need to take with you in a place where they won’t hurt anyone in a collision or if you need to brake heavily.

When parking, always be considerate of pedestrians so that your car does not obstruct the safe use of crossings and other places. When reversing, pay special attention and remember that it is often impossible to see if any small children are behind the car.

When you come to a halt, turn off your engine. As children’s noses are much lower than adults’, they could breathe in exhaust gases when they are getting out of the car. Make all your children get out on the side where the pavement is, no matter how many of them are sitting in the back.



Going to school on foot
or by bike

Dress your children in bright clothes and add reflectors in low visibility. In rain or fog, fluorescent colours such as bright green, yellow or orange are effective.

Teach young schoolchildren the basics of safe road crossing. Even if a car stops, make sure they still look in both directions for other moving vehicles. If their view is obstructed, they should carefully look out from behind the obstruction to see what is happening on the road. They should always wait until a car stops in front of the crossing.

Explain to your children that it is dangerous to use a phone when they are walking or, worse, riding a bike. If your child needs to do answer a call or text someone, they should stop before they do it. Wearing headphones is also dangerous.



Tell your children that, when they are walking on a pavement with friends, they should not push each other and should not walk on the kerb. If the road has no pavement, the rule is to walk on the left-hand side.

Make sure that children wear helmets when they are riding their bikes, even if they are only going a short distance or are off the road. If they are not confident about turning into another road, it is absolutely fine for them to dismount and walk across. Bikes should never be ridden over pedestrian crossings – cyclists are faster than pedestrians and drivers may not see them in time.