School buses are a safe way to get to schoolFor approximately 24 million children across the country, the school day begins and ends with a ride on the bus. Statistics show that traveling to school by bus is one of the safest modes of transportation. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses have a rate of 0.2 deaths per 100 million miles traveled; the rate of deaths in automobiles is eight times higher.
Passing motorists can endanger children getting on and off busesHowever, accidents do happen. The NHTSA reports that each year, an average of 11 passengers under the age of 19 die in school bus accidents. Most of the most serious injuries and deaths occur when children are hit by a school bus or by passing motorists while getting on or off the bus. In 2008, the Regional Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at Dayton Children’s saw 6 children for school bus related injuries.
More than 25 children each year die in pedestrian accidents involving school buses. In fact, three times as many children are killed in school bus accidents while getting on or off the bus than while riding it.
Pedestrians account for more than 40 percent of school bus-related fatalities. Many of these injuries occur when children are boarding or exiting the school bus, due to the driver’s “blind spot,” which extends approximately 10 feet around the bus. In addition, studies have shown that in a single day, hundreds of thousands of cars pass stopped school buses illegally.
“As children go back to school it’s important that everyone – including school children and drivers – know school bus safety rules,” says Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children’s.
School bus safety rules
To keep your children safe, Dayton Children’s, NHTSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests discussing rules for riding the bus with them.Avoid the three danger zones at all times:
- Front danger zone: It's never safe to walk close to the front of the bus, as the driver may be sitting up too high to see a child crossing in front of it. Instruct your child to walk five giant steps ahead of the bus before crossing in front of it. Make sure he can see the driver, and the driver can see him or her.
- Side danger zone: Tell your child to take at least three giant steps away from the side to avoid being in the driver's blind spot.
- Rear danger zone: Caution your child to never walk behind a school bus, as the driver will not be able to see him or her
- When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness. Do not stray onto streets, alleys or private property.
- Teach children to arrive at the bus stop early and line up away from the street or road as the school bus approaches.
- Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and the door opens before stepping onto the roadway.
- Avoid clothing and back packs with drawstrings or tassels that can get caught on a hand rail or bus door.
- Use the handrail when stepping onto the bus.
- Find a seat and sit down. If you bus has a seatbelt, make sure to belt in immediately.
- Keep the noise level down. Loud talking, yelling or other noise can distract the bus driver.
- Never put head, arms or hands out of the window and never throw anything out of the window.
- Keep aisles clear, as books or bags are tripping hazards and can block the way in an emergency.
- Sit facing forward, do not sit with your legs in the aisle
- Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat. Then, walk to the front door and exit, using the handrail.
- Make sure that the driver can see you once you are off the bus.
- Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross.
- When the driver signals, walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
- Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver has signaled that it is safe for you to begin walking.
- Be aware of the street traffic around you. Not all drivers follow the rules of the road, so before stepping into the street, look to be sure a car isn’t coming.
- Don’t linger or play near the bus after you leave it.
- Never stick your hand or other body part under the bus, even if you drop something.
Four tips to be a safe driver
- Reduce distractions in your car so you can concentrate on the road and pedestrians
- Remember to be especially careful in school zones and other areas where children are being picked up and dropped off for school
- Do not pass a school bus with its lights flashing
- Know and obey state laws that set a minimum stopping distance behind a school bus.
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