Summer’s nearly gone, and with it, a semblance of calm. Soon, students from around the country will be heading back to the classroom. Big yellow school buses will once again be prominent fixtures of city and suburban roads, stretching from late summer to the spring. Which leads us to this reminder: it’s important to talk to your kids about school bus safety.
It’s never too early to start. Organizations like AAA have already launched its “School’s Open, Drive Carefully” campaign, designed to remind adults about populated school zones and the dangers of distracted driving (including but not limited to floating on social media). The organization notes that nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities happen after school, the most dangerous hours for driving typically between the hours of 3-7pm. That’s prime time for school zones. Parents, it’s your responsibility to follow this tried and true advice.
Stay off your cell phone
This shouldn’t be exclusive to the school year. Traffic fatalities have increased exponentially over the last few years. safety advocates and researchers are nearly unanimous in their assessment that distracted driving is the primary culprit of such ghastly numbers. The situation becomes even more serious when children are involved. They are small and often unaware of their surroundings. The slightest distraction for any driver can have serious consequences, fatalities being one of them. But the bottom line when it comes to distracted driving is this: Stop doing it.
Remind your kids about the dangers of large vehicles
School buses are large and extremely dangerous when children are nearby. It’s not uncommon for kids to think of a school bus as a type of playground. They might think about running around and hiding behind tires, for example. Bus drivers are trained to keep an eye out for unsuspecting children, but even the most experienced driver isn’t immune to terrible blind spots. We’ve heard horror stories about children getting injured because they inadvertently stepped behind a bus that happened to be moving in reverse, or crossing the street without paying attention to oncoming traffic. Remind your kids that large vehicles, especially buses, do not cnstitute play areas.
Remind your teens about the importance of safe driving
Just as children are exposed to the dangers of the road, so are the teenagers who end up behind the wheel of a car. Many newly christened drivers start out by driving relatively short distances, e.g. between home and school. But that also means they have an even greater responsibility to account for the kids who happen to live in those same neighborhoods. An inexperienced driver is much more likely to cause havoc on the road than an adult who knows the drill. It may seem like pointing out the obvious, but to teens, the obvious is sometimes too obvious.
Remind yourself about the daily bus route
It’s unlikely that you’ll have a hard time spotting a big yellow school bus. But knowing your kids’ route to school can sometimes factor into your decision making, like whether to drive them to school yourself. Recently, our managing partner, Jay, was forced to make a tough call related to one of his daughter’s upcoming field trips. Instead of taking the conventional suburban roads, the school decided it would be faster to take the highway. Given that the bus wasn’t equipped with seat belts, Jay and his wife had to break the bad news to their daughter that she couldn’t go on the trip.
Enforce the buddy system
Adding a friend to the mix is one way of keeping two people safe at once. If you happen to be friendly with a neighboring schoolmate, there’s no harm in making it known to them both that two is better than one. The buddy system helps make sure your child ends up on the right bus, and more importantly, that they’ve got each other’s back when getting on and off.