It won’t be long before we see them again…those big, yellow machines that carry our precious cargo to and from school every day: school buses. Whether your kids love them or hate them, these buses provide a valuable service to our communities and to busy parents. We trust them and their drivers with our children and pray that they never break down or find their way into any kind of accident.
When it comes to school bus safety, however, part of the responsibility lies on us. The school does its part to keep the vehicles working, and the drivers hold up their end of the deal by obeying traffic laws and maintaining their training. The rest is up to us—and our kids.
This fall, one of the best things you can do to make sure your kids have a positive school experience is by talking to them about school bus safety and what behaviors are appropriate when traveling to and from school.
It starts at the bus stop. While they may be tempted to run and play with the other students, it’s important that they wait patiently for the bus. Because stops are close to the street, any horseplay can lead to tragedy if the activity winds up in a traffic lane. Also, be sure your children know not to talk to strangers at the bus stop. Develop a plan for what they should do if confronted by unfamiliar people, and pracitce the situation so that they’ll know how to react. This is especially necessary for kids in less populated areas or who wait for the bus in small numbers. Also, once the bus arrives, help your children know how to board properly by waiting for the bus to stop completely, the lights to flash and the doors to open fully.
The bigger challenge usually comes after the kids are on the bus. Friends, foes, games, fights, music—distractions of every kind can lead students to participate in dangerous behaviors. Because bus drivers have to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, it’s helpful if you make sure your kids know to walk straight to a seat and remain (quietly) in it for the entire ride. There should be no climbing over seats, no walking around, no throwing objects and no shouting—all of which can be dangerously distracting for the bus driver. And, if there is an emergency, make sure your children know to pay attention to the instructions of the driver and to follow directions.
Finally, once it comes to the return trip, be sure you know what time your child should be home. During the first week of school, make sure your kids know which stop is theirs and how to get home from there. Should they get lost, let them know ahead of time what to do and how to contact you or a trusted friend for help.
Yes, there are a lot of rules to follow when riding the big, yellow bus, but they all exist for good reasons. Schools and bus drivers want your children to be safe, and so do you. Be sure your kids are educated regarding proper bus safety and are ready to face the inevitable challenges of peer pressure. No, they won’t always be perfect, but they can be prepared. And the more you as a parent communicate with them, the better equipped they’ll be.