ANSBACH, Germany (Aug. 22, 2013) -- It's hard to believe that summer vacation is over and our children will return to school on Monday. Although the Military Police will be at the schools to help direct traffic and ensure the safety of children on school grounds, getting them to school safely is an individual and community responsibility. As you prepare your children for the first day of school, please consider the following:

Sit down with your child and go over the school policies regarding clothing, using cellphones, iPods and similar devices. Also, review the bus safety rules with your children if they are expected to ride the bus to and from school.

If your children walk or ride a bicycle to school, ensure they know that using portable headphones, earphones, cellphones, iPods, or other entertainment or listening devices (other than hearing aids) may be the style, but it's against the installation's traffic safety policy. More importantly, using these devices can mask the sound of traffic and place them in danger. For children 10 or younger, make sure you walk with them and take advantage of the opportunity to spend quality time with your children.

If your child rides a bicycle, make sure they wear the required helmet. Children observed without a helmet will be directed to dismount their bicycle and walk it to their destination. For children 10 and younger, they must ride on the sidewalk. For older children, please ensure they know and understand the rules of the road when riding a bicycle in the traffic environment. AER 190-1, Driver and Vehicle Requirements and the Installation Traffic Code for the U.S. Forces in Germany, outlines the requirement for operating a bicycle in the traffic environment. Take the time to ensure your child knows what is expected of him or her when they ride a bicycle.

If you live on post, stopping for school buses when they are loading or unloading is the law, but when off post, vehicles may pass a school bus while it's loading or unloading passengers. Ensure your child understands that if they must cross the street, they must do so at designated crosswalks and they must check for traffic before stepping into the street.

If you are dropping off your children, please obey traffic signs and the Military Police, who will be on hand. Keep intersections clear, obey the speed limit and watch out for children who may run in and out of traffic, especially from around parked vehicles.

As a commander, I can tell you we are fortunate to have a caring team of principals, teachers and administrators at our schools; however, they can't do it alone. I encourage you to get involved in your children's education and support our schools. If you have free time on your hands, I'm sure the schools would appreciate your support.

As a parent of school-age children, I encourage you to sign up for the Parent Teacher Student Association. Your involvement and support are KEY to the success of our schools and our children. Join your child's school PTSA in making the 2013-2014 school year memorable for our children!

- Col. Christopher M. Benson, USAG Ansbach and FMC Commander