If your child heads back to school soon, you’re likely already making a to-do list: new clothes, classroom supplies, and maybe a talk about your expectations for the school year. But here’s a topic that needs to be discussed before they head to their first class: road safety. All parents and caregivers should talk with their children about how to get to and from school safely, whether they take the bus, walk, take a bike, or ride in the family vehicle.
School buses are the safest way for children to travel to and from school, but there are dangers when children are boarding and leaving the bus. Over the last decade, nearly two-thirds of school-age pedestrians fatally injured in school transportation-related crashes were struck by school buses or other vehicles when the children were getting on or off a school bus. Teach your child to always:
- Wait five giant steps away from the road and, when the school bus arrives, wait until the driver says to board.
- Quickly find a seat after boarding, sit facing the front, and do as the bus driver says.
- Before you get to your stop, put your phone away.
- Before getting off the bus, look out the door—left, right, and then left again—for approaching vehicles.
- Once off the bus, take five giant steps away from the school bus.
- Before crossing the street in front of the bus, go to the edge of the bus, look left-right-left to make sure no traffic is coming, and wait for the driver to signal it's safe to cross.
Walking to school is great exercise, but children under 10 years old should be accompanied by an adult or with someone who will make sure they walk safely. Always set a good example, and teach your child to:
- Watch the road, not your phone.
- Walk on the sidewalk or, if there is none, walk facing traffic.
- Never play, push or shove others when you walk around traffic.
- When crossing the street, cross at a corner or marked crosswalk.
- Stop and look left-right-left for vehicles, motorcycles, and bicyclists. Wait to cross after traffic has passed.
- Make sure to push the pedestrian button and wait for pedestrian crossing signals, if available.
Biking is a fun, healthy way to get to and from school, too. Teach your child to always:
- Wear a properly fitted helmet and make sure to buckle the chin strap.
- Always ride in the same direction as traffic and stop at all stop signs and signals.
- Plan to use routes that offer bike lanes when possible and that have lower traffic volume and speeds.
- Only ride on the sidewalk when necessary; ride in the same direction as traffic, be careful of pedestrians, and use caution when crossing streets.
- Never use headphones or cell phones while riding.
Make sure there’s a safe driver behind the wheel. Every ride begins with everyone wearing seat belts, using a booster, or being properly secured in an appropriate car seat. Every child rides in the back seat; children in the front seat are 40 percent more likely to be injured in crashes.
A Safe Journey to and from School
From 2007 to 2016, there were 281 school-age children killed in school transportation-related crashes. But you can help keep children safe. Discuss these tips. Model road safety behaviors, including always buckling up in the car, and following all the rules of the road every time you drive, ride or walk. Make sure school transportation safety is the very first lesson of the new school year.