Back-to-school safety tips from Houston officials

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HOUSTON — It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes one to keep them safe.

That's why the Houston Fire department, Houston Police Department, HISD Police, HISD Transportation and Crime Stoppers teamed up Thursday for a joint press conference.

"We want to really encourage parents as they're driving the kids to school is put the cellphone down," HFD Sr. Captain Ruy Lozano said.. "Don't be texting. Or for new teen drivers, keep your eyes on the road."

Last week, Texas saw another child die after being left in a hot car. "We encourage you to put your cell phone in the backseat," Lozano said. "It serves two purposes. One, you'll check the backseat before you get out, and two, you won't be able to text and drive."

Lt. Richard Barrera with HISD Police encourages drivers to practice patience on the road.

"Starting next week, I would advise that you leave a little bit earlier than you normally do. Get in the new routine because that's the way it's gonna be for the next nine months," Barrera said.

"Parents, please talk to your kids about any potential risk (in the real world and online)," Rania Mankarious of Houston Crime Stoppers said. "If you're allowing them to walk to and from school alone, take the time to talk to them about the risks."

"Stay away from strangers and remember, a stranger is anybody that you don't know," HPD Officer Barry Curtis said. "If you have to walk to school, walk in groups. Don't walk by yourself and don't take shortcuts."

For kids taking the bus, HISD has purchased 44 new buses, each equipped with even safer, three-point seat belts.

"When that bus is stopped, when the lights are activated," HISD Transportation manager Alan Delaney warns impatient drivers, "please stop because at that point a student is getting on or getting off."

"Pay attention to us," pleads Carla Lewis, an HISD bus driver for 27 years, "We're driving a precious cargo. We're driving your children."

"And kids, as you go back to school and you have a wonderful school year ahead of you," Mankarious said. "Realize that safety's in your hands, too. And it's really important that you take steps to make sure that you're safe, day in and day out."

Safety first: an excellent lesson to start off the new school year.