School bus safety steps and reminders have been announced by the American Red Cross and National Safety Council, to help make student trips safer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also now advocating the inclusion of lap and shoulder belts with all new bus purchases.
Keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone, but there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time, Red Cross officials emphasized:
- Make sure the children know their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 911.
- Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.
The Deadliest Hour
NHTSA officials stressed that more school-age pedestrians have been killed during the hour before and after school, than any other time of day.
Also, children should not rely on cars to always stop for them automatically in crosswalks, or when the bus is loading or unloading passengers—even though drivers are required by law to stop for a school bus.
Seat Belts Save Lives & Reduce Injuries
Since 2002, passenger lap and shoulder belts have been made available on school buses, while California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas require them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced its support for lap and shoulder belts on buses in 2015, and the National Safety Council has joined in support of this position. The NSC also recommends that states or school districts consider this added safety benefit when purchasing buses.
In 2012, a side impact crash involving a school bus and a commercial vehicle in Chesterfield, N.J., resulted in the death of one student and serious injuries to others. Lap belts were available, but some students did not use them. The difference in normal safety conditions vs. major crash survivability became a stark lesson nationwide, and is being remembered for years afterwards.
For children riding a bus to school, the American Red Cross stressed that they should plan to arrive at their bus stop early—and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Students should board only after the bus has come to a complete stop, and the driver or attendant has instructed them to board.
In addition, Red Cross officials reminded that students should only board their own bus, never an alternate vehicle. Students must always remain in clear view of the bus driver, never walk behind the bus and obey all traffic lights. In addition, crossing the street must always be conducted within the nearest crosswalk, or absent that, the nearest corner intersection—and never midblock, where car drivers are not expecting them. Likewise, children should never dart out into the street to retrieve balls or other items, or cross between parked vehicles.
Also, when children walk to school, they should only use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. For parents with young children, the kids should be walked to school. The same goes for children who are taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week, to ensure they know how to arrive safely. Arrangements should also be made for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.
Field Trips Have Their Own Set of Issues
And then there are the unique issues that are inherent with field trips, which may involve different software, drivers and vehicles that are traveling to and from sometimes unfamiliar destinations. Extra caution is necessary, no matter how careful the district staff and vendors may be.
For instance, in Cypress, Texas, the Cypress Fairbanks I.S.D. manages 17,000 field trips annually using busHive, reports Kim Coleman, assistant director of transportation operations. “We are happy with that as well, and have just upgraded to their cloud version. They are very inexpensive compared to most field trip software vendors. We rent vehicles and trucks for field trip uses from PV Rental, a company operating primarily in Texas.”
The National Safety Council outlined additional issues below.
Getting on the Bus
- When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness
- Do not stray onto the street, alleys or private property.
- Line up away from the street or road as the bus approaches.
- Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before approaching the bus.
- Use the handrail when boarding.
Behavior on the Bus
- If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up.
- Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver.
- Stay in your seat.
- Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window.
- Keep aisles clear of books and bags.
- Get your belongings together before reaching your stop.
- Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.
Getting Off the Bus
- Use the handrail when exiting.
- If you have to cross in front of the bus, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver.
- Make sure the driver can see you.
- Wait for a signal from the driver before crossing.
- When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
- If your vision is blocked, move to an area where you can see other drivers and they can see you.
- Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver signals it is safe.
- Stay away from the rear wheels of the bus at all times.