There are a lot of safety issues that can surround school zones, driving to school, and riding buses. For example, there was recently a news story about a young woman who killed three children from the same family when she went past a stopped school bus.
It can leave even the most relaxed moms feeling worried about letting their child ride the bus, even though there are laws in place to prevent against these risks. For example, police charge higher fines for speeding in school zones and going past stopped buses, but is it enough to keep kids safe while they wait for the bus or get off in the afternoon?
What about safety when your kids are actually on the bus?
The following are some things to think about if you’re trying to decide whether or not to let your child ride the bus to and from school.
Are Buses Safe?
The biggest concern we have as parents are whether or not school buses are safe. It can feel like we’re letting go of control when we let our kids ride the bus, and that’s because we are.
However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a school bus is the safest vehicle on the road. The NHTSA goes on to say your child is actually safer going to school on a bus than going with you by car.
There are only around four to six school-aged children who die every year on school transportation vehicles, and that amounts to less than 1% of all traffic fatalities throughout the country.
The NHTSA highlights the following reasons why buses are actually a very safe way for your child to get to and from school:
- Students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely on a bus compared to by car because of how regulated buses are. They are specifically designed to be safer than passenger vehicles, and they are designed to be very visible and have extensive safety features.
- Many safety laws surround school buses—for example, it’s illegal to pass a school bus that’s dropping off or picking up, regardless of the direction you’re approaching from.
- If there is a crash, because of the weight and design of buses, there is less crash force than what’s experienced in a passenger vehicle. Large school buses are designed so that children don’t have to wear seatbelts on them because they’re protected by seats with energy-absorbing backs that are close together.
The Benefits of Letting Your Children Ride the Bus
There are different studies showing there can actually be academic benefits of letting your child ride the bus to school.
For example, students who ride the bus during their first year of school—kindergarten—are absent less, and that’s a primary indicator of future academic success.
Letting your child ride the bus can help your family overcome some of the logistical obstacles of getting your kids off to school, and it gives you as a parent one less thing to do during your hectic mornings if you don’t have to drive your child.
Other benefits of children riding the bus are:
- There can be economic benefits because you’re saving money on things like gas.
- It reduces pollution.
- Your kids get the opportunity to experience a bit of independence on the bus and learn a sense of responsibility.
Keeping Your Child Safe at the School Bus Stop
If you are going to let your child ride the bus, your focus should be on ensuring they’re safe at the stop. You should plan to walk your child to the bus stop at least five minutes before it’s scheduled to arrive.
If your child is younger, you’re likely going to need to wait with them, and kids should always stay at least six feet away from the curb. Reinforce to your child that the school bus isn’t a place for playing or running.
Teach your child to wait until their bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver gives them the go-ahead to get on. Children should use handrails as they get on the bus.
Your child shouldn’t ever walk behind the bus, and if your child has to walk in front of the bus for any reason, they should stay at least five very big steps in front. Children should always make eye contact with their bus driver before they cross the street, and if they drop something near the bus, they should tell their driver rather than trying to pick it up.
When it comes to school bus stop risks, some of the biggest ones include children who are in a hurry to get on or off the bus, or children who assume cars will see them and wait for them. Another big issue is not being within sight of the bus driver.
Planning for the Bus Ride
If you’ve weighed your options and decided that your child riding the bus is the right decision for your family, there are some things you need to find out ahead of time.
First, ask who will be on the bus with your child. You’ll also want to ask who the driver will be, and what the route is that the bus will take on the way to school.
Other questions include:
- What time will the bus actually arrive at school?
- Where will your child get off the bus both at school and once they arrive back home?
- How many other kids will be on the bus?
- What time does the bus leave school?
- What’s the route on the way home?
- What are the rules while children are on the bus?
- Who should you speak to if you have problems or concerns?
Whether or not to let your child ride the bus is a personal and logistical decision, and while it can seem scary, buses are actually a very safe way for kids to travel. Just ensure you go over the rules with them, and in particular, teach them about safety at the school bus stop.