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      Parents share safety concerns before school starts

      School will begin in Jefferson City on Thursday, August 14.

      Parents of schoolchildren in Jefferson City are asking motorists to be mindful of children who will be walking to and from school starting Thursday.

      The Cole County Sheriff's office is also reminding parents to caution their children about strangers and other scenarios they might face when walking to school.

      With the first day of school just days away, parent Brenda Miner has been doing just that. For the past several weeks, she and her husband have been preparing her twin daughters for their first day of Kindergarten. "We've talked to them about strangers, that they need to stay with mom and dad, or an adult that they know, and not to stray too far," Miner said.

      According to an article on the website healthychildren.org, around 800 students in the U.S. die annually during their trips between school and home. Although the bus is a safe way to get to school, Captain John Wheeler of the Cole County Sheriff's Office said teaching your children common sense is the best way to ensure a safe walking trip to school.

      "The biggest dangers for children are usually children themselves," Wheeler said. "Their attention span isn't all that much. They might not be thinking about where they're walking, or who they're talking to or their other surroundings. So the kids themselves just need to... be aware of their surroundings, make sure that they're walking with a friend, with a family member."

      Parent Kalin Walker said she hopes other drivers will be cognizant of increased sidewalk traffic once school starts up.

      "They should keep in mind that children sometimes dart out into the street to catch balls that have run away, or pieces of paper," Walker said. "They may get a little over-enthusiastic when playing games. So just pay attention, go a little bit more slowly than you think you need to when passing by children."

      Healthychildren.org also suggests the following tips for parents allowing their children to walk to school:

    • Make sure your child has the skills necessary to walk safely to school.
    • Walk the route yourself before taking your child along.
    • Make sure there are crossing guards present at every intersection your child must cross.
    • Make sure your child is wearing brightly colored clothing and is walking when it is light outside.
    • Have a backup transportation plan just in case it's too hot or too cold.
    • Practice safety in numbers. See if there are other children your child can walk to school with.
    • Captain Wheeler said being mindful and alert of the challenges children face on their trip to school can make a big difference in ensuring the safety of children.