There’s so much to be excited about for the first day of school. A brand-new backpack full of freshly purchased school supplies are enough for anyone to eagerly anticipate meeting their new teacher and seeing friends from last year. But sending your little sweetie onto the school bus for the first time can be very scary — for both of you. If you know some school bus safety tips, though, your kiddo can actually enjoy the ride and still be safe.
Riding the school bus for the first time isn’t always as simple as seeing your child climb those stairs and find their seat. There is so much more to the process, though. While riding the school bus is fairly safe (less than 1% of all traffic fatalities involve kids riding a school bus), children can still get hurt by an approaching bus or getting off of one, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
But there are benefits to riding the school bus that goes beyond mere transportation. Researchers found that kids are more social on school buses, indicating that this mode of transport can help kids form friendships outside of the classroom.
So if you and your child are ready for this next step in their scholarly journey, these school bus safety tips will keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.
Going on the school bus for the first time can make your child feel like a big kid. Thing is, they should make sure that they don’t approach the bus before it arrives at their stop. “Kids should keep a safe distance of at least 10 feet between them and the road,” advises Kayla King, an online driving instructor for Too Cool Traffic School. “The most important thing that you can do to protect your safety is to be visible to drivers.”
Ask About Safety Protocols
As big as a school bus is, accidents can — and unfortunately will — happen. So before you let your child board the bus for the first time, make sure that you know their safety procedures. “Call your school district and make sure that your child’s bus does regular evacuation drills,” says King. “Buses are mammoth, but if they’re in an accident and an evacuation is ever needed, the kids will feel better if they’ve had some practice and know what’s expected of them.” Even if you don’t want to be that parent, it’s better to understand how the school bus company handles safety.
If you’ve ever been on a school bus, you know that it’s a bumpy, bouncy ride. But to ensure that your child doesn’t go flying into an aisle, teach them that as fun as it might be to switch seats as the bus is making a sharp right turn, they should stay put. “As for safety when kids are on the bus, school buses can be a bit of a free-for-all,” explains Brianne Sandorf, a personal safety expert. “Since school buses have no seat belts, kids sometimes stand up, switch seats, etc. when they shouldn’t. Tell your kids that even though the bus doesn’t have seat belts, they should act as if it does.” As for when to get up when their stop is approaching, they should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop.
Be Mindful At Bus Stops
After a few weeks, your kid might want to ride the bus all by themselves. While that can be a major milestone, it might not be safe, even if the bus stop is only a block away. “Your kids aren’t super likely to be snatched at the bus stop by a stranger, but it is a prime spot for someone from the neighborhood to carry out a kidnapping,” warns Sandorf. Her recommendation: kids younger than twelve should walk to the bus stop with a parent or caregiver, another kid taking the bus, or an older sibling. Remember, there is safety in numbers — even at a seemingly safe local bus stop.
Know Watch Where You Walk
Boarding the bus is one thing — but knowing where to walk after getting off the bus is entirely another. Your child might not think twice about running around the front or even back of the bus, and the consequences could be disastrous. “Teach your kids not to walk in front of the bus before they get on or after they get off,” says Sandorf. “It’s just safer to steer clear of the bus’s path altogether.” And if crossing a street is necessary, they should always look both ways. “If you have to cross the street, make sure that the bus driver sees you and cross in front of the bus once all traffic is stopped and they tell you it’s okay to go,” adds King. Once you get off the bus, quickly make your way to the sidewalk and avoid walking alongside the road.
Clear The Curb
Sometimes, the school bus can run late, and little ones might get tired of standing for a long stretch. But don’t encourage them to cop a spot on the curb until you spy the school bus making its approach, advises King. “Don’t sit on the curb or stand too close to the road while you’re waiting for the bus to arrive,” she says. “Most drivers aren’t expecting to see a person stationary and so close to the road, and a child’s small size can make them difficult to spot.” Remember, a bus driver is perched up pretty high, and a young child sitting on the curb can be in their blind spot. Once you see the school bus is on its way, make sure that your child is standing…and visible.
Watch The Bus Driver For Directions
Your child spies their stop and starts to get ready to get off the bus. Although they might know their stop by heart, they should avoid leaving their seat until the bus driver says it’s safe to do so. “Wait for the bus driver to signal that it’s time for you to get off the bus,” says King. “When the bus comes to a stop, the bus driver will be checking to make sure that it’s safe to let you off.” After all, your child might not see that car that’s speeding down the street — but the bus driver will.
Riding the school bus can be a big deal for your little learner. Knowing some bus safety tips ahead of time means that your kid can enjoy the ride to school — and beyond.