(Family Features) Although a great deal of attention focuses on safety at school, for millions of kids the school day starts on the bus. More than half of America’s school children ride the bus, according to the National Association of Pupil Transportation, and school buses are the safest form of transportation to and from school.
Still, there are steps you can take as a parent to make the experience even safer. NAPT offers these tips to help teach your child to be safe at the bus stop and as they get on and off the bus.
Getting Ready for School
- Have your children put everything they carry in a backpack or school bag so that they won’t drop things along the way.
- Encourage them to wear bright, contrasting colors so they will be more easily seen by drivers.
- Make sure children leave home on time so they can arrive at the bus stop before it is due, ideally at least five minutes early. Running after or in front of a bus is dangerous.
Walking to the Bus Stop
- Walk young children to the bus stop or encourage children to walk in groups. There is safety in numbers; groups are easier for drivers to see.
- Practice good pedestrian behavior: walk on the sidewalk, and if there is no sidewalk stay out of the street. If you must walk in the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as you can.
- Stop and look left, right and then left again anytime you must cross a street. Do the same thing at driveways and alleys. Exaggerate your head turns and narrate your actions so your child knows you are looking left, right and left.
At the Bus Stop
- Have children wait in a location where the driver can see them while driving down the street. Never wait in a house or car.
- Do not let children play in the street. Playing with balls or other toys that could roll into the street is also dangerous.
Getting On and Off the Bus
- Warn children that if they drop something getting on and off the bus, they should never pick it up. Instead, they should tell the driver and follow the driver’s instructions.
- Remind children to look to the right before they step off the bus.
- If you meet your child at the bus stop after school, wait on the side where the child will be dropped off, not across the street. Children can be so excited to see you after school that they dash across the street and forget the safety rules.
Cell phones and other electronic devices are often permitted on the school bus as long as:
- They are in backpacks or other holders, keeping hands free to use handrails while boarding and departing the bus.
- Sound is muted or headphones, ear buds or similar devices are used.
- Content does not violate the law or school district policy and procedures.
- Use does not create a distraction for the driver.
Sidebar: A Safe Alternative
Teaching kids school bus safety is one way to protect them on the ride to and from school. However, school districts can take additional steps to make the bus safe: by switching from diesel buses to an alternative fuel like propane.
Jenna Bush Hager, a teacher, author, journalist and parent of two, is partnering with the Propane Education & Research Council to educate parents and school districts about the benefits of propane school buses.
School buses powered by the alternative fuel offer numerous safety advantages. Propane school buses are quieter than diesel buses, making it easier for drivers to hear inside and outside the bus. This can have a direct impact on student behavior, and many districts have reported fewer disciplinary issues as a result.
“As a former teacher, I know how important the ride to and from school is for our children. We know what happens before they arrive at school sets the tone for the whole day and can affect a child’s performance in the classroom,” Hager said.
Using propane also helps reduce children’s exposure to potentially harmful particulate matter found in diesel exhaust, which some studies show may escalate breathing-related issues and aggravate asthma. Many students, including those in wheelchairs who enter from the back of the bus, wait at stops near where their bus’ tailpipe will be. With propane, students no longer have to wait in the “cloud of black smoke” from diesel exhaust.
What’s more, propane-powered school buses cost less to operate than diesel buses. This allows school districts to invest the money they save on transportation back into the classroom, supporting teachers and a better learning environment.
“School districts across the country are challenged now more than ever before to do more with less,” Hager said. “With propane, school transportation departments can save thousands of dollars on fuel alone, which helps the entire school system stay on budget and free up dollars for other essential activities.”
Sidebar: Discuss the Bus
Want to talk with your school district about switching from diesel buses to cleaner alternatives? Download resources including fact sheets, videos and more at BetterOurBuses.com.