Fatal crashes involving school bus occupants are extremely rare events, even though school buses serve children daily in nearly every community. Statistics show getting to and from the bus is actually more dangerous than riding the bus itself.
In the U.S., an average of 13 school-age pedestrians die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year.
From 2000 to 2009, 130 school-age pedestrians were killed in school transportation-related crashes while 57 were occupants of school transportation vehicles. This means that more than twice as many children were killed while getting on or off the bus than while riding it.
Oct. 22-26 is National School Bus Safety Week– making it a good time to teach children how to stay safer around school buses. This year’s theme is I See the Driver. The Driver Sees Me.
“Remind your children about the 10-foot danger zone around the school bus where the driver can’t see them,” says Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “To be sure 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."
Kids should stand on the grass or sidewalk while waiting for the bus and not enter the street until the driver has opened the door of the bus.
“Kids tend to run toward the bus and assume that drivers will see them and wait for them to cross the street. Remind your child to stay within the bus driver’s sight,” says Sage.
Here are some school bus safety tips that all children should know:
- Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early.
- While waiting for the bus, stay in a safe place away from the street. Stand at least five giant steps away from the edge of the road.
- Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s okay before stepping onto the bus.
- Be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps or dangling objects do not get caught in the handrail or door when exiting the bus.
- If something falls under or near the bus, tell the driver. Never try to pick it up yourself.
- When you get on or off the bus, look for the bus safety lights and make sure they are flashing.
- Be alert to traffic. When you get on or off the bus, look left, right, left before you enter or cross the street.
- Stay in your seat and sit quietly so that the driver is not distracted.
- 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.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of crash-related fatalities on school buses is 0.2 per million miles traveled, compared to 1.5 for cars.
In Kansas, it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus from either direction when the stop arm is extended. National School Bus Safety Week is held every year in the third week of October and led by the National Association for Pupil Transportation.
Visit www.napt.org for more details. To learn more about pedestrian safety and child passenger safety, visit www.safekids.org.