While carpooling is a common practice in many communities, a school bus is the safest way for children to get to school. Fatal crashes involving school bus occupants are extremely rare events, even though school buses serve children daily in nearly every community.
Getting to and from the bus is actually more dangerous than riding the bus itself. In the United States, 26 children were killed as pedestrians getting on or off a school bus, or while waiting at the school bus stop, in 2007. This means that five times as many children were killed while getting on or off the bus than while riding it. Oct. 20 to 26, is National School Bus Safety Week – making it a good time to teach children how to stay safer around school buses.
Remind your children about the 10-foot danger zone around the school bus where the driver can’t see them. To be sure the bus driver can see them – young children should take at least five giant steps away from the bus while entering or exiting the bus. Older kids who must cross the street should look at the bus driver for an ‘OK’ sign before crossing in front of the bus.
- Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early.
- Stay in a safe place away from the street while waiting for the bus.
- Stand at least 5 giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road.
- Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it is okay before moving towards the bus.
- Have your parents help you check that your clothing does not have drawstrings and that your book bag does not have straps or dangling objects. They can get caught in the door when exiting the bus.
- If something falls under or near the bus, tell the driver. Never try to pick it up yourself!
- When you get on or off the bus, look for the bus safety lights and make sure they are flashing. Tell the driver if they are not.
- Be alert to traffic. When you get on or off the bus, look left, right, and left again before you enter or cross the street.
- Stay in your seat and sit quietly on the bus so that the driver is not distracted.
- Some school buses now have seat belts. If you have seat belts on your school bus, be sure to learn to use the seat belt correctly on every ride.
School buses are, by far, the safest way for kids of all ages to get to and from school. It would be ideal if children did not have to cross a busy street unattended to get to their bus stop. However, regardless of their bus stop location – all kids should stand on the grass or sidewalk while waiting for the bus. Kids should not move towards the bus until the driver has opened the door of the bus and signaled it is okay to enter.
In North Dakota and Minnesota, it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus and motorists should never pass a school bus with its lights flashing. National School Bus Safety Week is held every year in the third week of October and led by the National Association for Pupil Transportation. Visit www.napt.org for more details. To learn more about pedestrian safety and child passenger safety, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.