Back-to-school season also means back-to-riding-the-bus season for many children. School buses are a much safer mode of transportation than cars, but it’s still important for kids to follow basic safety steps to prevent injuries.
But first, a note on COVID-19: School bus seats are close together, so if your child is unvaccinated or your area is experiencing high case rates, you might choose another way to get to school, such as walking or driving—if it’s feasible and safe for your family. If your child is riding the bus, have him or her wear a mask the entire ride; you can ask the driver about opening bus windows to increase ventilation. For children 12 and older and eligible for vaccination, getting the shot is a great way to make riding the bus, going to school and all other activities safer.
“COVID-19 prevention is going to remain very important this year, especially with the surge in cases brought on by the delta variant,” says UNC Health family medicine physician Sarah Ruff, MD. “But children need to be reminded of other kinds of safety too, such as avoiding accidents and injuries on their way to and from school.”
Review the following injury-prevention tips with your child, whether you’ve got a newbie or an experienced school bus rider.
- Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Stay back 6 feet from the road and don’t run or play at the stop.
- Always stay 10 giant steps away from the bus when it’s pulling up so the driver can see you.
- Be aware of moving traffic. Avoid things that obstruct your sight, hearing or attention, such as jacket hoods, headphones and video games, while you’re waiting for the bus, walking near the bus, or getting on or off the bus.
- Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting on or off. Sit down as soon as you’re on the bus.
- Be cautious of backpack straps, drawstrings or loose clothing that can get caught on handrails or doors.
- Don’t put your head, arms, hands or belongings out the window.
- When exiting, be aware of other cars on the road. Take five giant steps from the front of the bus and wait for the driver’s signal that it is OK to cross the street. Never walk behind a school bus, and if you drop something in the road, don’t bend down to get it. Walk onto the sidewalk and signal to the driver instead.
Of course, car drivers play a role in keeping children safe on their way to and from school, too. Make sure you look out for children walking, standing or playing; drive slowly and avoid distractions such as your phone or radio. Follow state laws for vehicles near school buses; when a bus is picking up or dropping off children, stop your car, stay back and never pass the bus.
Have questions about your child’s health? Talk to your child’s doctor. Find one near you. Learn more about school bus safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.