Getting to School Safely

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, approximately 7,000 children are hurt each year in school bus accidents. Heather Paul, PhD executive director of Safe Kids, stated that 31 children were killed in the incident. More than half were killed while they were approaching or leaving the bus.

Paul says that the problem is the “blind-spot danger zone”, a 10-foot radius around the bus.

Paul says that a driver can’t see children close to the bus. Paul says that even if children see the bus driver, they cannot see the child. This should be known by all children. She says that more than half of school-age children killed in school-bus crashes are between 5 and 7. “So, we’re talking here about very small children, who don’t know the rules and don’t understand buses. They need to be taught these lessons by their parents and teachers.

Here are her tips for you and your child

  • At least five minutes before the bus arrives, you should be at the bus stop.
  • Avoid horseplay and stay off the streets.
  • Cross the street at least 10ft (or 10 giant steps), in front of the bus.
  • To avoid falling, use the handrail.
  • Always wait for your parents on the same street as the school bus.
  • Replace any loose tie or drawstrings on jackets and sweatshirts that could catch on bus handrails with Velcro, snaps or buttons.
  • If you drop anything while getting on or off the bus, ask the driver.

Paul says that we never recommend children under 10 years old to walk alone to the bus stop. They don’t have the cognitive ability to make the right choices. While you don’t need to hold a 10-year old’s hand, it is important that they have a mature adult with them.

Here are some tips for parents who want to let their child do it on his own.

  • Take the safest route with your child and take it several times.
  • Your child should be able to recognize and follow all traffic markings and signals.
  • Before crossing the street, make sure your child is looking in all directions.
  • Your child should not cross the street between parked cars, or behind shrubs or bushes.
  • Your child should learn to cross the street at the corner, or crosswalk.
  • Encourage your child to be more alert during bad weather.

Kellie Foster, spokesperson at the National Crime Prevention Center, Washington, states that neighborhood safety is another concern. Foster says that it is a good idea to gather neighbors and to look out for each other. It’s one of most effective ways to promote safety. If they feel unsafe, a child should be able to go to any adult responsible — a crossing guard, a mailman, or a police officer.

Encourage your child and a friend to walk together to the bus stop. Make sure that you know the schedule of your child and your friend. Foster states that this reduces fear and gives you both peace of mind.

These are SAFE KIDS safety tips for children who bike to school.

  • Bicycling requires the use of a helmet.
  • Respect the rules of the road.
  • Until age 10, never let your child drive without adult supervision.
  • You can plan a safe route for your child to ride and then go with them.
  • Night riding is not recommended.
  • Schools should provide safe areas for cyclists to store their bikes.

If you are dealing with a teenager, the possibility is that driving to school has become a major issue. Many families have been helped by Dale Wisely PhD, a Birmingham psychologist. He recommends that you create a contract together with your teen. That it’s one way to signal to teens that you take driving seriously. “Be open to saying that we don’t care about what other children or parents think.” Wisely states that the contract should include driving rules, how to deal avec distractions, use cell phones and CD players, as well as limits on the number passengers in the car. Friends in the car can be distracting. It’s not a good idea for someone who is just starting to drive. Perhaps they will be able to pick up one friend later, once they have gained some driving experience.

Teens who can’t get up in the morning tend not to drive as fast to get to school. Wisely has a solution. “I recommend parents to include this in their rules. If they are going to drive to school, they must be there by a certain time or they won’t drive. They either drive them or they don’t go. People are shocked. People are shocked. Parents need to ask themselves “What’s at risk?” This could lead to the death of their child.

Updated 01/24/22