The school bus is one of the most important tools in getting kids to school in an efficient, timely manner. Many children ride the bus due to their parents’ schedules. Others use the bus because of traveling longer distances to school. Parents should be able to expect their child is safe while they travel on this vehicle. One of the best things parents can do to encourage school bus safety for kids is to talk to their children about what is expected of them and what to do if something goes wrong. No one likes to think about a disaster, but it can happen.
School Bus safety for Kids: Waiting for the Bus
Bus safety begins with waiting for the bus. While some children are accompanied by an adult to the bus stop, many of them are left waiting for the bus on their own. During the wait, it can become boring, especially for those kids who need a little more stimulation than others. This can lead to rough housing and other play that could lead to a child running or being pushed into the road. Talk to your children about waiting quietly for the bus. It is okay to talk to friends, but they should stay out of the road until the bus arrive and continue to pay attention to the traffic around them. Awareness is key in staying safe when waiting alongside the road.
Children should arrive at a bus stop at least five minutes early and wait about six feet back from the curb. If your child will be waiting at the bus stop without you, visit the stop with him before the school year and show him where you expect him to wait.
School Bus safety for Kids: Wait for the Bus to Stop
The bus is already watching out for young children because that is who it is picking up. However, not all vehicles are using the same sense of caution. In fact, many drivers attempt to speed around a bus before it can put out its stop sign and turn on the lights. Others simply don’t care and will continue to drive past a bus, even after it is stopped and the lights are on. It is up to children to watch the traffic and decide when all traffic is stopped so they can proceed. Never move toward the bus while it is still moving. Always wait until it stops fully and the safety devices are operational. If you are crossing the street to reach the bus, look both ways the entire time you move across the street.
School Bus safety for Kids: Walking to the Bus
If your child is waiting on the side of the street on which the bus stops, your child should wait until the door opens and the driver looks at him or her before boarding the bus. This will protect your child from trying to board a bus that may still be moving. Many drivers will also keep an eye on traffic and look at children to indicate it is safe to board.
If your child waits on the opposite side of the street, extra precautions should be taken. Most buses are equipped with a bar on the front that extends out at the same time as the stop sign and the lights. Your child should check for any moving traffic and then proceed across the street, crossing in front of the bus and beyond the bar. This bar is designed to help drivers see children who are walking in the street. Never walk up to the bus from behind as the driver is less likely to see you.
School Bus safety for Kids: Dropping Items
While you would hope your child would walk calmly to the bus without risking dropping anything, things can happen. Teach your child how to handle this situation to avoid disaster. If your child drops something, he or she should alert the bus driver first and then retrieve the item. This will ensure the driver knows where the child is at all times and won’t move until that child is safely on the bus. Some children aren’t on the bus every day and the driver may miss him or her at the stop and think all children are safely on board when they aren’t.
School Bus safety for Kids: Watch Clothing
When you get on and off the bus, it is important to be mindful of what you are wearing and your backpack. These items can become caught in the bus doors or on the handrail, trapping you in place. If something is caught, let the bus driver know immediately so he or she can help you remove it.
School Bus safety for Kids: Riding on the Bus
School bus safety for kids continues throughout the ride to or from school. Many kids like to get rowdy on the bus because they aren’t constrained in car seats or seatbelts. However, this can create distractions for the drivers. While some drivers are okay with the chaos that can ensue when children board a school bus, particularly those who don’t ride a bus on a regular basis, most drivers need to be able to concentrate on the road to keep all the kids safe. Talk to your child about proper bus etiquette, such as talking quietly with friends, reading a book or listening to music. Avoid yelling and running around in the aisles. Not only can this distract the driver, it also poses a dangerous risk for your child if there is an accident or the driver slams on the brakes.
School Bus safety for Kids: Exiting the Bus
If you exit the bus on the street, it is important to use caution when exiting the bus. Before you step off the bottom step, lean forward slightly and look back and forth to check for oncoming traffic. Some drivers either ignore the warning lights on the bus or are in a hurry and choose to break the law instead. If your child simply steps off the bus and someone is passing it, he or she could be severely injured or even killed. Whenever your child gets on or off the bus, he or she must always watch for other cars. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security by the bus’s safety features.
School Bus safety for Kids: Buses and Seatbelts
While many school buses still don’t have seatbelts, they are starting to appear in many newer models. In the past, buses were deemed safe enough without the use of these devices. Today, all small buses must have lap belts, while some states are also using seatbelts and three-point harnesses in larger buses. However, this has long been a controversial topic. According to WebMD in an interview with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school bus accidents only result in deaths for about 0.2 of every 1 million children who ride on a daily basis. This is an extremely small percentage, indicating buses are relatively safe, even without seatbelts.
In fact, buses were designed with safety in mind. The seats are made from padded material and are situated close together, keeping most kinds who are sitting properly contained to a small area in the event of most crashes. While there are always exceptions, the NHTSA has stated that riding a bus without seatbelts is completely safe and they do not recommend adding seatbelts. Another argument against seatbelts is the ability to fit more children on a bus to reduce the number of buses a school district must run. However, if safety dictated the need, this would be a minor problem many school districts would have to handle.
School Bus safety for Kids: Bullying
Another major problem regarding school bus safety for kids is bullying. The driver tries to keep an eye on what is going on with the kids while driving, but this isn’t always possible. This can lead to bullying that goes unnoticed. Teaching your child how to handle bullying on the bus is essential to ensure it can be handled properly. First, your child should separate himself from the situation. If he has become a victim repeatedly, sitting immediately behind or the side of the driver can sometimes stop the behavior. He should also let the driver know the behavior is happening. Finally, make sure your child knows he can come to you. You can then address the situation with the school.
School Bus safety for Kids: Safety Videos
Watching a school bus safety video or two with your child can help you teach him how he is expected to act on the bus and why it is so important. School bus accidents can be quite serious, despite their great safety record. However, sometimes it can be difficult to portray the potential problems in a way your child can understand. Watching videos aimed at children can show them in a way they understand why school bus safety is so important.
School bus safety for kids isn’t something that should be ignored. Your child deserves a safe ride to school and you deserve to feel at ease while your child is on the bus. Teaching children how to safely wait for, board, exit and ride the bus will ensure your child feels confident and reduces the risk of an accident that could injure or even kill a child.