Back to School: Bus & Transportation Safety

Can you believe it’s almost time for kids to go back to school? It seems like we were just celebrating the last day of school with pizza parties and ice cream. Summers go by fast down here in the south, so that means you have to fit in family vacations and summer reading before it’s time for back-to-school shopping and homework.

But with back to school comes preparing for school safety, too. Whether you have a first-time school-goer or you’re a pro at sending your kids back to school, there are always things to think about and prepare for while they’re at school all day.

In this blog series, we’ll take a look at some of the most common school safety concerns and share ways that can help you and your children plan to be safe and protected this year. Our first blog will look at safety and tips for riding the bus to school and sharing the road with others.

When in Doubt, Take the Bus to School

It can be hard, as parents, to feel safe about sending our children to school on a bus. We place a lot of responsibility on our kids when we let them wait at the bus stop alone, trust them to get on the bus, and deal with the unknowns of what could happen on the way.

Buses Are Safer Than Cars

Research shows that students are 70 times more likely to make it safely to school by taking the bus than traveling by car. School buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road, so they’re designed to be safer and prevent more injuries in accidents. Bus riders are also protected by by stop-arms and traffic laws are written to protect children getting on and off buses.

Buses Decrease Traffic and Pollution

Since the average school bus can carry 54 students, we decrease morning traffic by 20-30% when we let our children ride the bus. We’re also helping our environment by saving about 20 million tons of CO2 emissions every year.

Buses Save You Money

Each year we see a steady decline of the number of students riding the bus – the number has declined since the 1980s despite its benefits. There are many reasons for the decline: it’s a longer ride, bullying is more likely to begin on the bus, and there are safety concerns about letting your kids wait at the bus stop alone.

Yet, parents who take their kids to school:

  • use approximately 180 more gallons of fuel a year
  • spend about $660 more in fuel
  • put 3,600 more miles on their car

But, with great power comes great responsibility. And that means if we’re going to let our kids ride the bus, we have to educate them on ways to stay safe in transit.

Bus Safety

There are a lot of rules come with riding the bus to school. It’s important to know the proper ways to wait for, ride, and exit the bus.

Teach your kids to always play it SAFE:

  • Stay 5 steps away from the curb.
  • Always wait for the bus driver to tell you when to get on the bus.
  • Face forward after sitting down.
  • Exit the bus when it stops, look left-right-left, and then take 5 steps away from the bus toward the curb.

Georgia’s Department of Education has a detailed list for each phase of riding the bus to and from school. Review a few of their top tips below or read through all the tips and recommendations to stay safe this school year.

Tips for Waiting at the Bus Stop

The school bus "danger zone" is the 12-foot area surrounding the school bus while it’s stopped. In this area, the bus driver may not be able to see students, or other cars might be passing while students are getting on or off the school bus.

  • Be ready early. Make sure children are up and ready in plenty of time to make it to the bus stop. Backpacks should be packed ahead of time so nothing is left at the house. It’s best to arrive to the bus stop 5 minutes ahead of your scheduled pick-up time.
  • Safely wait for the bus. Stay on your side of the road until the bus comes to a complete stop. As the bus is approaching, get in an organized line with the first person 5 steps back from the road.
  • If you miss the bus ... don’t chase after it and don’t go to another bus stop. Go home to get help or call someone to take you to school.
  • Stay away from the "danger zone." Dangerous areas around the bus are near the right and left front tires, the right rear tires, and front door. These areas can be very difficult for the bus driver to see you.
  • Be aware of other drivers. Always make sure you’re aware of other drivers who might be passing a stopped bus when they’re not supposed to be.

Tips for Riding the Bus

  • Stay seated at all times. Sit facing forward with your back against the seat and feet flat on the floor in front of you.
  • It’s important the bus driver can safely operate the bus at all times, which means they should be able to hear noises from the road that could be dangerous. Stay quiet at railroad crossings so the bus driver can hear an approaching train.

Tips for Exiting the Bus

Whether getting off the bus onto the road or at school, you still need to be aware of your surroundings and prepare for a safe exit.

  • Prepare to exit. Stay seated until the bus is completely stopped. Put away anything you may have taken out of your backpack before getting up, and never wear headphones until you're off the bus.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure your backpack straps, purses, and clothing are tucked away so they don’t get caught on anything while you’re getting off the bus. Look in both directions before crossing a street and always make sure you can see the bus driver so they can see you.

Sharing the Road

Maybe you don’t have kids going back to school so you don’t need to worry about rules for riding a bus. But, you should be aware of ways you can protect yourself and make sure others around you are safe this school year.

Driving Near Buses

According to the National Safety Council, most children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are ages 4 to 7 years old, and they’re walking. This happens either by being hit by a bus or by a car illegally passing a stopped bus. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to pedestrians:

  • Stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the street.
  • Always stop for a crossing guard.
  • Never pass a car that’s stopped for pedestrians.

It’s illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that’s stopped to load or unload students. So if you’re behind a bus, don’t follow too close. Give yourself enough time to stop once you see the flashing yellow lights on the bus. Also, be sure to:

  • Stop far enough away to give children enough space to enter and exit the bus.
  • Stay alert! Kids forget about the dangers of crossing the street so it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.

Driving Near Bicycles

Riding your bike to school can be a fun and easy way to get to school as long as safety isn’t at risk. Motorists need to be aware and knowledgeable of how to share the road with bicyclists. Some general rules are:

  • When passing someone on a bike, continue slowly in the same direction, leaving at least 3 feet between your car and them.
  • When making a left turn with a cyclist approaching from the opposite direction, wait for them to pass.
  • Always use your turn signals.
  • Watch for cyclists turning in front of you without looking or giving a signal.

Check the National Safety Council’s back to school safety tips for sharing the road for more information on how to share the road this school year.

Our next Back to School Safety topic will look at bullying and how we can talk to our kids about the effects of bullying and recognize signs if it’s happening to them.

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