September 4, 2014 @ 7:14 AM

When getting ready for back to school time, focus is often on shopping for new clothes, school supplies, and backpacks. We usually don't think about preparing children to ride the school bus or how our morning commute will change until it is the first day of school. As a school bus driver for over 15 years and a certified New York State School Bus Driver Instructor, I would like to share with you why your kids should ride the school bus and how you can help teach children to have a safe bus ride.

Did you know the school bus is the safest mode of transportation for any age child? Here are some facts you should know from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • 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.

When it comes to school bus safety the bus driver cannot do it alone. Here are some tips to encourage a safe start to the new school year:

  1. Be ready for the bus. Many bus drivers will do a dry run before the first day of school. Find out what time the bus is scheduled to pick-up your child and be ready at least 10 minutes before the bus comes. Sometimes the bus may run early or late, depending on weather, traffic or if there is a sub-driver. Despite their excellent maintenance records, sometimes a bus can break down. If your bus is running late, you can always call the bus garage to find out where it is. But remember to be patient; the line may be busy as other parents may be calling too.
  2. Never teach a child to run for the bus- this is very dangerous. A child could slip and fall under the wheel or be hit by tail swing if the bus is turning a corner. Before your child misses the bus, check your school policy. Plan ahead for options just in case.
  3. At the bus stop the New York State Education Department recommends children stand back at least 15' away from the side of the road. In addition, children at a group stop should form a single line when the bus is in sight. When smaller children are at the bus stop keep them from entering the "danger zone", the area around the bus that could hurt them. Do not encourage young children to run up to the bus to meet their older brother or sister.
  4. Always teach children to wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the driver opens the door and signals them it's okay to approach the bus. It is also a good idea for them to look both ways before getting on the bus, just in case a car is passing on the right. It has happened. Also, if your child is a crosser, they need to wait for the driver to signal them it is safe to cross. Encourage your child to look both ways before crossing to make sure all cars are stopped.

The first week of school can be exciting and stressful for all involved. Many students are attending school for the first time or are going to a school they are not familiar with. Drivers are learning new routes and meeting new students. During the first week of school it can take longer to load buses at a school and the bus may run late. As children get used to loading the bus at school, and drivers become more familiar with their routes, things will go more smoothly.

School bus safety is a team effort. Thank you for helping school bus drivers to promote school bus safety!