It’s the busiest and most anxious time of the year for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As fall begins and droves of students begin their daily morning rituals, the NHTSA is gearing up for a long scholastic season of bright yellow buses and big red Stop signs. It all leads to National School Bus Safety Week 2014, a national public education program designed to promote school bus safety around the country, promoting the theme “At my Stop, you Stop!” October 20-24.
Consider these facts: Nearly 24 million students ride the bus each year, keeping nearly 17.3 million cars off the road, according to the NHTSA. In 2009, the National Safety Council estimated that the national school bus accident rate was 0.01 per 100 million miles traveled, compared to 0.04 for trains, 0.06 for commercial aviation and 0.96 for other passenger vehicles. If you’re skeptical of those dated numbers, the NHTSA has good news: The bus continues to be the safest mode of transportation for students traveling to school in 2014.
But also consider this: Studies have shown that getting on and off remains the most dangerous aspect of bus safety. It’s an overlooked fact. It’s also one of the most emphasized facts during Bus Safety Week, which also involves a national poster contest (students create posters based on a designated theme, encouraging youngsters to actively take part in the program).
National School Bus Safety Week dates back to 1970 when Californian Dick Fischer, a former school district transportation director, established a national committee on bus safety. Since then, in a coordinated effort by the National School Transportation Association and the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the annual public awareness program has generated awareness among parents and students about staying safe around the bus for more than 40 years.
We recently doled out tips and best practices for parents in preparation for back to school week, one of which included a tip about bus safety. If you’re like the majority of parents, you’re doing due diligence to make sure your child is well aware of his or her surroundings. In this case, however, school transportation and safety is a two-way street.
Below is a list of best practices directly from the NHTSA and our friends at Safe Kids Worldwide, good for both you and your child to review throughout the school year.
Never walk behind the bus
Wait till it comes to a complete stop before boarding
Arrive at your stop at least ten minutes early, so as to avoid rushing
Stay away from the danger zone around the bus. Buckle Up Illinois defines the danger zone as the 10-foot area on all sides of the bus where children are in the most danger of being hit. They suggest taking five giant steps away from the bus before crossing so that the driver can see them.
Wait until the bus is completely stopped, and watch for the driver’s signal before boarding the bus.
Look left and right before boarding to make sure the road is clear, especially if the bus has stopped away from the curb.
Listen to the bus driver, teacher or any other adult who is in charge on the bus. They will signal when it is safe to get out of your seats and when to get on and off the bus. They also will give instructions in an emergency.
Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. Tell kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and board the bus one at a time.
Teach kids to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting off and never to walk behind the bus.
If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe. Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
Instruct younger kids to use handrails when boarding or exiting the bus. Be careful of straps or drawstrings that could get caught in the door. If your children drop something, they should tell the bus driver and make sure the bus driver is able to see them before they pick it up.
Drivers should always follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops. Remember to stay alert and look for kids who may be trying to get to or from the school bus.
Slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights. This means the bus is either preparing to stop (yellow) or already stopped (red), and children are getting on or off