NYPD’s Back-to-School Street Safety Tips: The Good, the Bad, and the “Huh?”

It’s back-to-school time, and NYPD has some advice for drivers. Image: NYPD

Occasional tweets (and actual policing) aside, NYPD has gotten savvier with its traffic safety messages under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. For the start of school, the police blasted out information aimed at both drivers and kids. While there’s room for improvement, it’s a step up from some of the department’s previous traffic safety tips.

The latest round of street safety information began popping up on NYPD Twitter accounts in the final days of August as city agencies began sending out material for the start of the school year. The information for drivers is about as spot-on as one could hope for, with explanations of how to drive safely near school buses, as well as reminders to keep an eye out for kids and to not block crosswalks. The flyer also includes an admonition against revving the engine or honking to intimidate children crossing the street, something that’s not a tip so much as a marker of basic human decency.

The messages for kids are a bit less complex, focusing on obeying traffic signals and crossing at the intersections. Image: NYPD
These tips are a bit less complex, focusing on obeying traffic signals and crossing at the intersections. Image: NYPD

The department also produced a more traditional traffic safety message using kid-friendly graphics to stress rules for pedestrians. The benefit of focusing education on children is questionable when the real danger is a driver behind the wheel of a high-speed, multi-ton vehicle — so it’s appropriate that this flyer, which many parents are surely going to see, includes some directives for motorists too.

DOT said it did not advise NYPD on these particular street safety messages. For its part, the Department of Education said it provides the following tips to parents:

Safety Tips for Students Walking to School or a Bus Stop

  • Always walk in groups and know the safest route. Never take shortcuts.
  • Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Test the route. Stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
  • Cross the street in a designated crosswalk. Be extra careful in rainy, foggy, or snowy weather.
  • Always look left, then right, then left again before crossing a street and allow enough time to cross the street safely.
  • Know your home phone number and address, parent/guardians’ work numbers, the number of another trusted adult, and how to use 911 for emergencies. Have enough change to make a phone call or carry a telephone calling card. Never talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers.

DOE also directs parents to the DOT website, which offers maps showing traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, and traffic calming near each school. Parents can either download the map online or pick up a copy at their child’s school.

NYPD, which has not responded to questions about its back-to-school safety campaign, also released this final image. We’re not quite sure what to make of it.

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