Back-to-School Bus Safety

Smart tips for kids as a new year gets rolling

In some areas of the country, backpacks and books have already replaced swimsuits and sunscreen as the rest of us cling to these last few precious weeks of summer.

In the hustle and bustle of the start of a new school year, one important lesson that can be overlooked is “the talk.”

No, not that talk — the talk about school bus safety for our kids.

Since 2003, 1,353 people have been killed in school transportation-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Of that number, eight percent were passengers in school transportation vehicles.

[lz_ndn video= 29543064]

Two mothers in Mathews, La., are right now suing their school district and one of its bus drivers, claiming their kids were hurt when the driver ran into an 18-wheeler last year. The children were 14 at the time and the parents say the driver carelessly operated the bus and was “inattentive.”

Parents should always contact their school district or bus company if they have any concerns about drivers or monitors.

Most injuries to children happen when our kids are boarding or exiting the school bus, according to Dawn Gardner, an injury prevention coordinator of the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“A blind spot extends about 10 feet in front of the bus, obstructing the driver’s view,” she told Newswise. “Oftentimes, kids are not aware of this blind spot, and might mistakenly believe that if they can see the bus, the bus driver can see them.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that from 2000 to 2012, 490 school-age children were killed in passenger vehicle crashes, compared to four who lost their lives aboard school bus involved in crashes.

Teen-driven vehicles are the least safe. Students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the school bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. “The good news is that big yellow school bus is far safer than any other way students get to school,” Charlie Hood, executive director of the National Association of Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, told LifeZette.

If kids follow some common-sense tips, riders will get to and from school safely.

Waiting for the Bus

  • Arrive at least five minutes early, which eliminates the need to rush across the street as a bus pulls up.
  • Avoid horseplay, which can easily spill over into the road before children realize it.
  • Take three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches. Wait until the driver opens the door to approach, and follow the instructions of the bus monitor.
  • Stay 10 feet away from the front and the back of the bus, so the driver can see you clearly.
  • Use the handrails when boarding (especially important when wearing heavy backpacks).
  • Never talk to strangers at the bus stop or approach any car driven by strangers, no matter what they say.

On the Bus

  • If you drop something during the ride, let the bus monitor or driver know before you try to find it and pick it up.
  • Keep voices at a reasonable level. Screaming can distract the bus driver, who must focus on the road.
  • Wear your seat belt at all times and stay in your seat, facing forward.
  • Never throw anything out of the windows or inside the bus. It’s not just littering: Someone could get hurt.
  • Watch long scarves, straps and shoelaces. They can get hung up on railings or trapped in seats, which could end up trapping you.
  • Never push or shove anyone on the bus.

Getting Off the Bus

  • Stay in your seat with your seat belt on until the bus makes a complete stop.
  • Use the handrails when getting off the bus.
  • Get off the bus in an orderly fashion. Take your time.
  • If another child is struggling with extra bags, speak up. Tell the monitor or driver that a student needs help.
  • If you need to cross the street afterward, take five giant steps in front of the bus. Make eye contact with the bus monitor or bus driver. Look both ways once, then twice, to make sure the coast is clear. When a responsible adult indicates it is OK, cross the street.
  • Never talk to strangers when walking home from your bus stop.
meet the author

Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor for LifeZette.