According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury.
- School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school.
- School buses keep an annual estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning.
Safety on the School Bus
The NHTSA reports that the number of preschool age children who take a bus to school or day care each day is increasing. And while there are general rules to review with your little one about riding the bus, there are also guidelines and rules specific for preschool age children:
- Any child who would normally ride in a car or booster seat needs to do so on a bus as well. Some buses have special seats already built in that are equipped with harnesses, while others outfit young children with safety vests that are sized to fit a specific wearer. Check with your child's preschool or school bus company for more information about how your child will be secured while riding the bus.
- Make sure that your child knows while riding the bus, he should stay still in his seat and do his best not to distract the driver. No shouting or yelling, no moving around the bus, and no sticking arms, legs, or anything else out the window.
- The first day your child boards the bus, find out the driver's name, and confirm what time your child will be picked up and dropped off. Introduce your little one to the driver and find out what your child should do if she does need to get the drivers's attention for any reason while the bus is in motion.
- Make sure your child understands to hold on to the handrails when going up and down the stairs to get on and off the bus.
Safety Off and Around the School Bus
While it is certainly important that your child obeys safety rules while on the bus, there are also a lot of safety risks to be aware of while you and your child are around the bus, either while waiting at a bus stop or getting on or getting off. Things to keep in mind:
- Younger children tend to be impulsive and aren't necessarily mindful of the proper rules for crossing the street. They are also smaller, so drivers don't always see them. Make sure that your child knows to hold your hand, or the hand of an adult on the way to the bus stop. While standing at the bus stop, make sure your child stands in the designated area, on the sidewalk, or on the corner as possible. When you can see the bus in the distance, have your child take a few steps back so the driver has plenty of room to stop.
- If you and your child have to cross the street in front of the bus, make sure to do it so the driver can see you. Confirm with the driver that it is OK to cross. Never cross the street behind the school bus.
- While it will always be your intention to pick your child up from the bus stop (or to have another trusted adult do it), there could be an occasion where you are running late, or have a problem, or some other circumstance where you cannot get to the bus. So your child doesn't panic, talk to her about what will happen -- most likely the bus driver will return your child to the school and call you but confirm that. Remind your child to NEVER get off the bus alone or go to an adult they don't know.
- If somehow something rolls under the bus, instruct your child not to get it -- to tell the bus driver and then wait for instructions.