It’s back-to-school season and, for parents, that means crossing items off your school prep checklist. Once you’ve had a chance to mentally prepare your child for school and just before snapping that adorable “first day” photo, reserve time to have a conversation with your kid about school bus safety.
It might not seem like a big deal, but talking about school bus safety can literally be a matter of life or death. Even if your child is not one of the 25 million U.S. students who ride a bus to and from school each day, it’s likely that he or she will board a school bus over the course of the year for things like field trips, extracurricular activities and athletic events.
Riding a school bus is actually shown to be the safest way for both kids and teens to go to and from school. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, less than 1 percent of traffic-related student deaths happened as a result of riding the bus compared with 58 percent when a teen is behind the wheel and 23 percent when a parent or adult is driving during normal school travel hours.
More often, school bus related accidents happen while children are boarding or exiting the bus. A 10-foot blind spot known as the “danger zone” surrounds the school bus on all sides and obstructs the driver’s view. Children who are not aware of this blind spot may mistakenly think that if they can see the bus, the bus driver can see them.
To avoid the danger zone, teach your child to take five giant steps back from the curb as the school bus approaches. Riders should never attempt to move towards the bus until it has stopped and the driver opens the door. If a child drops something, they should first alert the bus driver and then make eye contact with the driver before picking it up. The front and back of the bus are the most dangerous areas.
Being on time for the bus will also help keep your child safe. Make it a habit to be at the bus stop at least five minutes before pick-up time. Arriving early means your child will be less likely to feel the need to hastily cross the street to catch the bus or chase after it if the driver has already pulled away.
If your child needs to cross the street to board or exit the school bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the driver, and cross when the driver indicates it is safe to do so. It goes without saying, but teach your child to look left, then right, and left again after receiving approval from the driver and before crossing.
Finally, make sure your kids know that you disapprove of any kind of horseplay at the bus stop. Horseplay can lead to a child, and/or their belongings, inadvertently ending up on the road or in the way of traffic.