As we near the start of another school year, parents across the country are preparing their children for new teachers and new classrooms, but it is important not to forget to think about how they will get there. Nationwide, approximately 24 million students ride the bus each day to and from school – nearly 3 million of them on First Student buses.
Parents, especially those putting their child on the bus for the first time, tend to worry about sending their little one off to school. But, rest assured, school buses are the safest form of ground transportation. Their large size and bright yellow color make them easily visible to other drivers - and their height raises riders above car impact level. Buses come equipped with safety technology, all meant to keep passengers safe. Flashing lights, a stop sign arm, cross view mirrors and a crossing arm in front are among the more basic equipment.
By following these simple guidelines, parents can help make the ride to and from school enjoyable, as well as safe.
Before the first day of school, learn where and when the bus will arrive to pick up your child. Know which bus number your child is assigned to since there are multiple buses and routes running each morning and afternoon.
Write the bus information down and put it in your child’s backpack so they have something to reference in case they forget. It can also be helpful to include your address and a phone number.
Check if your school district offers an orientation day where students and parents have the opportunity to meet the bus driver and even check out the bus. Take advantage of it. If your district doesn’t offer an orientation or meet and greet event, take steps on your own to help your child become acclimated. Visit the bus stop and show your child where they should stand while waiting. With your child in the car, drive the route to and from school, pointing out things along the way so they will know when their stop is getting close.
Get a Buddy
In all likelihood, your child will not be waiting at the bus stop alone. If they don’t already know the other children in the neighborhood (and if you don’t know the parents), this is a great time to make introductions. Standing at the bus stop with a friend (or at least an acquaintance) is a lot easier than standing there with a stranger. While some drivers will assign seats, many do not and having a friend to share a seat can go a long way in calming a young rider’s fears. It also can’t hurt to have a few other trusted adults you know you can turn to when emergencies (or scheduling snafus) arise.
Get the Rules
Don’t wait for the bus driver to share the bus rules with your child. Most school districts offer a handbook (usually online) detailing the rules of the school, classroom and bus. Read these and share with your child. Many rules remain the same across districts such as staying seated while the bus is moving, facing forward, talking quietly, and keeping hands (and all other body parts) inside the windows, but others vary from district to district. Make sure your child knows all of the rules ahead of time including whether they are permitted to eat, chew gum, use electronics or a cell phone. Knowing the rules upfront can minimize the possibility of uncomfortable situations later.
In addition to the rules of riding the bus, help ensure your child’s safety by making sure they know the proper behavior to exhibit to ensure their safety around the bus. It is especially important to teach them the following guidelines when entering and exiting the bus.
Rules to follow include:
- Being aware of traffic.
- Walking several feet (in front of crossing arm) away from the bus so the driver can see you.
- Always crossing in front of the bus.
- Never retrieving something dropped near the bus without first alerting the driver.
While it is typically a safe place, be aware that the school bus can be a prime place for bullying. Tell your child they should not feel afraid or intimidated on the bus and to go to the driver and you if they feel bullied.
Tell your child that riding the school bus is a privilege, not a right. It is important for them to be respectful of other riders and the driver.
Bus riders and their parents aren't the only ones who need to be considerate of bus rules. Back-to-school time means the morning commute is filled with more children and buses. Staying focused and taking a few extra precautions can keep students safe and greatly minimize the odds of an accident.
- Be on the lookout for children walking or bicycling to school, especially when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.
- When driving through a school zone, be mindful of children in the area. Obey reduced speeds and watch for children walking or riding bicycles in the street, especially if there aren't any sidewalks.
- Slow down. Watch for children playing near bus stops.
- Learn and obey the school bus laws.
- Do not pass a school bus while it is loading or unloading students.