( Family Features) For millions of school-age children, each day begins and ends with a bus ride. While parents entrust their children’s safety to the capable hands of bus drivers, these tips from the National Association for Pupil Transportation provide some measures parents can take and lessons they can teach to increase safety going to and from the bus, and even during the ride.
Before the Bus Arrives
- Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don’t scatter as the bus approaches.
- Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding.
- Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers.
- Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.
- If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing.
- Verify that the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus.
- Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys could roll into the street and horseplay can result in someone falling into the path of oncoming traffic.
On the Bus Ride
- Instruct children to allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.
- When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions.
- Teach safe riding habits: stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; use a seatbelt (if available); keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving.
- Remind kids that just like when riding in your car, loud noises are off limits so they don’t distract the driver.
Leaving the Bus
- Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps away from the front of the bus, looking up and waiting for the driver to signal that it is safe to start into the street.
- For parents who meet their kids at the bus, remember that in their excitement kids may dart across the street. Eliminate the risk by waiting on the side of the street where kids exit the bus.
- Make the bus ride part of your daily “how was school?” discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus, so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.
- Bullying is more prevalent than ever and buses are no exception. Ask your child to tell you about any bullying they observe, whether against another child or themselves, and talk about how to shut down bully behavior.
Another Safety Solution
Beyond teaching safety precautions around the bus, there is another option to ensure kids are transported to school and arrive home safely each day. Many school districts are moving away from noisy, pollution-inducing and expensive diesel buses in favor of buses powered by an alternate fuel, like propane, which offers numerous benefits for school districts and their students.
Jenna Bush Hager, a teacher, author, journalist and parent of two, has partnered with the Propane Education & Research Council to educate parents and school districts about the benefits of propane school buses.
School buses powered by propane offer numerous safety advantages, including being quieter than diesel buses when operating, making it easier for drivers to hear both 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. An interactive audio quiz detailing the difference can be found at QuieterSchoolBuses.com.
“As a former teacher, I know that parents often overlook how the ride to and from school can impact a child’s performance in the classroom,” Hager said. “A child’s attitude or behavior before they arrive at school can set the tone for the whole day.”
In addition, these buses meet rigorous U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and each is equipped with an automatic shut-off feature that prevents fuel flow to the engine when not running.
Another safety consideration is the health impact of older diesel buses. The shorter height of younger students can put them face-to-face with a black cloud of diesel smoke every school day. With propane buses, however, students aren’t exposed to the harmful particulate matter in diesel exhaust, which is known to aggravate asthma and has been identified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen.
Not only is propane consistently less expensive than diesel, the buses themselves don’t require the same expensive repairs and replacement parts that today’s modern diesel buses demand. Saving money on transportation costs puts schools in a better position to meet students’ needs in the classroom and other areas, such as fine arts and athletic programs.
Is your school district exploring a switch from diesel buses to cleaner alternatives? Join the discussion (or start one) by downloading resources including fact sheets, videos and more at BetterOurBuses.com.