With the beginning of another school year, it’s important to remember safety practices that protect both drivers and students.

The school year typically brings:

  • More traffic congestion and frustrated drivers
  • Children crossing the road
  • Buses making frequent stops to pick up and drop off children
  • Reduced speed limits in school zones
  • Distracted children walking and texting on their cell phone

All of this can put our children at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. According to the National Safety Council, most children involved in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old and are hit while walking, by a bus or a car illegally passing a stopped bus.

Here are some tips that can help protect our children:

  • Put your phone away and pay attention to the roads.
  • Slow down and abide by posted school zone speed limits.
  • Allow yourself extra drive time to account for additional traffic.
  • Be courteous to school buses on the road.
  • Never pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. It is illegal in all 50 states. And never pass a school bus on the right; it is illegal and dangerous.
  • If you are traveling in the same direction as a stopped school bus, you must stop as well.
  • Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to pick up or drop off children. If you are driving, slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm indicate that the bus is stopped, and that children are getting on or off.
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is at the highest risk for child being hit, so stop your car further than that to allow space for children to enter or exit. Most states have distance requirements, and they may be much further away than you may think.
  • Drive slowly and watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks. Be aware of children playing or waiting around bus stops.
  • If your child rides their bike to school, make sure they always wear a properly fitting and secured helmet when leaving the house.
  • Choose a backpack for your child with ergonomically designed features to enhance safety and comfort.
  • Backpacks should weigh no more than 10-20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Ask your children to use both straps when wearing their backpack to evenly distribute the weight on their shoulders.

Parents, discuss the following safety tips with your children so they can be more proactive in protecting themselves:

  • Pay attention when getting on or off the school bus. Distractions can cause injuries.
  • Don’t stand too close to the curb or street when waiting for the bus.
  • Stay seated during your ride, even while the bus is stopped.
  • Wait to cross the street until the bus driver lets you know it’s okay to do so.
  • If you need to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the side of the road until you are 10 feet ahead of the bus. You always should be able to see the bus driver, and the bus driver always should be able to see you.
  • Walk on the sidewalk if one is available. On a street with no sidewalk, walk facing the traffic.
  • Before you cross the street, stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming. Always cross at a crosswalk or an intersection—never in the middle of the road.
  • Never dart out in front of a parked car.

Let’s help ensure that our children have a safe and productive school year.