Putting the Brakes on School Bus Safety Concerns
With school soon to be back in session, parents have been riding up to me and asking me what they can tell their children regarding being safe while on or around the school bus. Well let me put the brakes on some of their concerns and provide some information on this topic.
School buses are probably the safest form of highway transportation. Yet accidents can and do occur, and about two-thirds of them happen to pedestrians who are outside the bus. In fact the greatest risk for your child is not while they are riding the bus, but as they are approaching and/or leaving the bus.
Here are some suggestions to help ensure your child’s safety around the school bus:
- Have your child at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives so they are not apt to run in front of it as it pulls up. Children should walk to the bus on the sidewalk, and if there is no sidewalk, then walk on the left-hand side of the road, facing the traffic so they can see and be seen by oncoming cars.
- Respect the ten-foot “Danger Zone” which surrounds all sides of the bus. A child should always be outside of this zone where the driver can see him or her, and only cross in front of, and not behind, the bus and outside this zone when the driver signals it is ok to board the bus.
- When on the bus, remind your child to sit quietly and follow the driver’s instructions at all times, to not eat or drink while on the bus, and never to block the aisles with themselves or objects.
- While not all buses have seat belts, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that new school buses have safety restraints – meaning lap/shoulder belts that can also accommodate car safety seats and booster seats. If your child’s bus does have these restraints, remind your child to wear them.
- On exiting, remind your child to be careful with clothing with drawstrings, or book bags with straps, so they do not get caught in the handrail or door.
- Finally, remind your child to never speak to strangers at the bus stop or get into a car with someone they do not know who might be offering a ride home.
Hopefully tips like this will take care of business, or should I say bus-iness, when it comes to your child being safe around and on the school bus this year.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids