School buses safer than passenger vehicles

October 7, 2012 

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. Next week, Oct. 15-19, is National School Bus Safety Week – a good time to teach children how to stay safer around school buses.

To be certain 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. However, regardless of their bus stop location, all kids should stand on the grass or sidewalk while waiting for the bus. Actions such as these can help keep children out of the 10-foot danger zone around the school bus, where the driver cannot see them.

Ten school bus safety tips that all children should know:

1. Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early.

2. Stay in a safe place away from the street while waiting for the bus.

3. Stand at least five giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road.

4. Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it is okay before moving toward the bus.

5. Have parents help you check that clothing does not have drawstrings and that your book bag does not have straps or dangling objects. These items can be caught in the door when exiting the bus.

6. If something falls under or near the bus, tell the driver. Never try to pick it up yourself.

7. When you get on or off the bus, look for the bus safety lights and make sure that they are flashing. Tell the driver if they are not.

8. Pay attention to traffic. When you get on or off the bus, look left, right, and left again before you enter or cross the street.

9. Stay in your seat and sit quietly on the bus so that the driver is not distracted.

10. 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.

In Washington state, it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus, and motorists should never pass a school bus with its lights flashing.

Walking is another great way to get to school. This month, many schools celebrate Walk to School Day and use it to promote the physical activity benefits of walking as well as give tips for walking safely. It’s a great way for kids to get a portion of their recommended 60 minutes of daily activity. More information on Safe and Active Routes to School can be found at tinyurl.com/8qpugp3.

To learn more about pedestrian safety and child passenger safety, visit safekidsthurstoncounty.org.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties Reach her at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us.

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