School buses provide an invaluable service and help children get to school when parents are otherwise unable to take them. It is essential that drivers exercise utmost caution around buses. Unfortunately, not everyone pays the same care and attention to these vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects and analyzes data on bus accidents via its Fatality Analysis Reporting System. An examination of this data found that riding on a school bus is generally safe, but accidents can – and do – occur. More than 25 million children ride school buses each day during the academic year. More than 130 people die in school vehicle related accidents each year – and only 8% of those are bus crashes. Even though bus crashes are relatively rare, children can incur serious injuries or die, particularly while waiting for the school bus to arrive.

Tips for Riding the School Bus Safely

Children often view riding the school bus as a fun experience and an opportunity to socialize with friends on the way to and from school. However, it is essential for all children to remain calm and in control to minimize bus driver distraction.

Parents can do their parts to help their children understand their responsibilities as they ride the bus. Here are things parents should tell their children to do when riding the bus:

  • To enter and exit the bus in an orderly fashion.
  • To remain in the bus seat for the duration of the trip.
  • Keep all limbs inside the bus at all times.
  • Sit with feet on the floor and face forward at all times.
  • Not roughhouse or yell.
  • Do not distract the bus driver.
  • Keep the aisles clear of book bags, feet, and personal belongings.
  • Never get on or off the bus unless it has come to a complete stop.
  • Never cross the street without a signal from the bus driver.
  • Use a handrail when entering and exiting the bus.
  • Wait for the bus far away from traffic in a safe location.
  • Cross the street at least 10 feet in front of the bus.

Tips for Parents

Parents should also be aware of ways they can help their children stay safe on the bus and prevent accidents.

  • Parents should consider age appropriateness. Young children should not sit at the bus stop by themselves. Whenever possible, parents should accompany children to the bus stop and provide supervision near traffic.
  • Parents should arrive at the bus stop a few minutes early for drop-off and pick-up. Accidents are more likely occur when everyone feels rushed.

Tips for Motorists

Motorists must follow the rules of the road, which includes obeying any stop signs a bus puts up. Motorists are required to stop whenever a bus stops and has its red lights flashing. It is also a good idea to give buses a safe following distance because it makes frequent stops.

In all 50 states, it is illegal to pass a school bus when it is stopped to unload or load children. Never pass a bus from behind if it’s stopped to bring children aboard or let them off, even if it’s lights are not flashing. As the 10 feet of space around the bus are the most dangerous for children, make sure to give the bus a wide berth.

In general, drivers should be more alert around buses because children can be unpredictable. By exercising extra caution, drivers can help reduce the risk of a bus accident on the road. Everyone, from parents to bus drivers, has a role to play in preventing the occurrence of bus accidents.