According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, from 2001 through 2010, 1,368 people died in school transportation-related crashes -- an average of 137 fatalities per year.
"As families begin to prepare for children returning to school, it's important for parents and children to go over school bus safety tips together," says Dawne Gardner, injury prevention coordinator, Comprehensive Children's Injury Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "This will help ensure a safe, enjoyable start to the school year for everyone."
According to Gardner, many injuries happen when children are boarding or exiting the bus. "A blind spot extends about ten feet in front of the bus, obstructing the driver's view," she says. "Often times, children are not aware of this blind spot and might mistakenly believe that if they can see the bus, the bus driver can see them," she explains.
Gardner offers the following suggestions to parents on how they can ensure their child is safe before, during and after their school bus ride.
While Waiting for the Bus
• Children should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is expected to arrive. Early arrival helps children avoid running across the street to catch the bus or running after the school bus if it has already left the bus stop.
• Parents should encourage their child to avoid horseplay while waiting for the bus to keep children and/or their belongings out of the road and away from traffic.
• Teach kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and to never move towards the bus until it has stopped and the driver opens the door.
• Children should avoid the school bus "danger zone" by staying 10 feet away from the front or back end of the bus so that the driver can see them.
During the Bus Ride
• If a child drops something, they should tell the bus driver and make sure the bus driver is able to see them before they pick it up.
• Children should always use the hand rail when entering the bus.
• Check that drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves and loose clothing cannot get caught on the bus handrail, door or the seats.
• Parents should teach children to never push or shove other students.
• All children can help prevent falls on the bus by keeping the aisles clear of backpacks or books that can trip someone or block the way to the emergency exit.
• Children should remain seated, facing forward at all times during the bus ride.
• Shouting should be avoided to avoid unnecessarily distracting the bus driver.
• Parents should discuss the importance of never throwing any objects into, out of, or inside the bus.
After the Bus Ride
• Children should never leave their seat until the bus makes a complete stop.
• Remind kids to use handrails when exiting the bus.
• If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it's safe.
• The child should not talk to strangers when walking to and from bus stop.
• Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
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