The greatest safety risk to a student is not riding the school bus, but approaching or leaving it, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To help prevent injuries among the 25 million children who ride the bus to school every weekday, the Tom Sargent Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital recommends families consider the following safety tips:
- Avoid rushed boarding and potential falls by arriving at the bus stop at least five minutes prior to the bus’ scheduled arrival.
- Stand in a safe, well-lit location at least six feet – or three giant steps – away from the curb. Remember: The bus stop is not a safe place to run or play.
- Apply adhesive reflective material to backpacks or jackets to ensure children are visible to drivers at all times of the day.
- Wait to approach the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the door opens.
- Wait until the bus driver signals that it is safe to proceed into the road way before crossing the street.
- Ensure children are visible to the bus driver at all times. Cross in front of, not behind, the school bus. If a child needs to veer from the standard walking route for any reason, notify the driver before proceeding.
- Use the bus’s interior handrails to limit potential falls.
- Remain seated while on the bus. “Seat hopping” or horseplay should be avoided.
Drivers also should be on alert to avoid accidents.
“Be alert and slow down,” says Ben Hoffman, M.D., medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center and professor of pediatrics at OHSU Doernbecher, OHSU School of Medicine. “Drivers should keep an eye out for children when backing out of driveways or traveling through school zones or neighborhoods with bus stops.”
Students who choose to walk or bike to class also should adopt safe practices, such as developing a well-lit, visible route with access to crossing guards at every intersection. Hoffman recommends kids that bike to school wear a properly fitted bicycle helmets and respect standard traffic rules, no matter how short their journey.