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Don’t let kids under 10 walk to school alone

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When school starts again, so will parents' safety concerns about letting children walk to school. Patti Rhynders, injury prevention outreach manager at Children's Medical Center of Dallas, believes children start having the skills they need to safely walk alone near traffic after age 10 and recommends that, until then, an adult or an older child should accompany younger children. Until that age, kids have trouble judging gaps in traffic or determining the speed of traffic.

Rhynders recommends for older children parents designate a safe place to play that is away from traffic routes. Children ages 10 to 14 are most at risk while playing in the street after school between 3 and 6 p.m. and even more so from 6 to 9 p.m.

"Most of the time, when a child is hit by a car, the child is at fault," she said, adding it's little consolation to the driver, the child or the parent. "Each of us as drivers could be in this position should a child dart out midblock or make an unexpected turn into the path of our oncoming vehicle. A child's risk of being killed if hit by a car going 30 mph is 40 percent. If the car is traveling at 40 mph, the risk jumps to 80 percent."

She cautions drivers to slow down on neighborhood streets and to be aware of children playing near the street or poised to dart between parked cars. She also calls on parents to be good role models. Walk facing traffic, only cross at crosswalks and teach your children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing.