Back to School season is here, and that means school buses are back on the road. School buses are one of the safest ways for children to travel to and from school, but they also require drivers to be alert and cautious. Here are some tips to help you keep our kids safe on the road:
Before the Bus Arrives
Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don’t scatter as the bus approaches. Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding. Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers. Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible. Walk young children to the bus stop or encourage kids to walk in groups. There is safety in numbers; groups are easier for drivers to see. If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing. Verify the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus. Remind children the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys can roll into the street and horseplay could result in someone falling into the path of oncoming traffic. Instruct children to stay at least three steps away from the road and allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.
On the Bus Ride
When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions. Teach safe riding habits: Stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving. Instruct children to never throw things on the bus or out the windows and to never play with or block emergency exits. Remind kids that loud noises are off limits so they don’t distract the driver. That includes cellphones and other electronic devices; instruct children to put them on mute or use headphones.
Leaving the bus
Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps (approximately 10 feet) away from the front of the bus, looking up and waiting for the driver to signal it’s safe. For parents who meet their kids at the bus, eliminate the risk of your children darting across the street by waiting on the side of the street where they exit the bus. Make the bus ride part of your daily “how was school?” discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.
Stop for school buses
It is illegal to pass a school bus when it has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended. This means you must stop at least 20 feet away from the bus, whether you are behind it or approaching it from the opposite direction, unless there is a physical barrier or median separating the lanes. Violating this law can result in fines, points on your license, and even jail time. Find out about your state’s laws by visiting www.drive-safely.net/school-bus-laws.
Watch for children
Children may not always follow the rules when getting on or off the bus. They may cross the street without looking, run behind the bus, or dart out from between parked cars. Be prepared to stop and yield to children at all times. Do not honk or rush them. Remember, they are someone’s precious child.
Obey the speed limit.
Speeding is dangerous and illegal, especially in school zones and near bus stops. Follow the posted speed limit signs and slow down when you see a school bus or children nearby. Speeding can reduce your reaction time and increase the risk of a crash.
Be courteous and patient.
School buses make frequent stops and may cause some delays in your commute. However, they are also transporting our future generations and deserve our respect and cooperation. Do not tailgate, cut off, or harass school bus drivers or passengers. Instead, give them plenty of space and time to safely perform their duties.
By following these simple tips, you can help make our roads safer for everyone. School bus safety is not only a matter of law, it’s also a matter of life.