Usually this time of year, students are packing their bags full of new school supplies, and parents are meeting new teachers and researching their children’s bus routes. However, this year is anything but a routine back-to-school season. School systems’ plans across the country vary from all-virtual, to part-time virtual, to complete in-person instruction, and with each of these scenarios, NHTSA asks you to keep one thing top-of-mind: safety.
School Bus Safety
Stop for school buses
Students who are returning to in-person instruction may rely on school buses to get them to and from school safely.
Did You Know: School buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every state, stop-arm laws exist to protect children from other motorists.
If you are driving, remember these simple rules:
- Yellow flashing lights on a school bus mean slow down — don’t speed up — because the bus is preparing to stop. There are likely students waiting to get on the bus or parents waiting nearby to pick up children.
- Red flashing lights mean stop — and wait at least 20 feet behind the bus — because children are getting on or off the school bus. Stay stopped until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving.
- Even when lights aren’t flashing, watch for children, particularly in the morning or mid-afternoon, around school arrival and dismissal times. Be alert as you back out of a driveway, or drive through a neighborhood, school zone or bus stop.
Parents - talk bus safety with your children:
Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Teach them to play it SAFE:
- Stay five steps away from the curb.
- Always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver signals for you to board.
- Face forward after finding a seat on the bus.
- Exit the bus when it stops and look left-right-left for cars before crossing a street.
Staying safe on two wheels
During our months at home, many people have turned to bicycle riding as fun way to get out and exercise, or have taken the opportunity to teach their children to ride a bike. Bicycles can also be an easy and quick way to travel to school. Be sure to do these simple things to keep your bike ride safe:
- Always wear a correctly fitted helmet, and securely fasten the chin strap.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic, and follow traffic signs and signals.
- Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
- Never use electronics while riding – they are distracting.
Watch the road
Virtual learning, in-person instruction, or somewhere in between – it’s likely you or your child will be a pedestrian at some point in the day. Remind them to:
- Use the sidewalk whenever possible, and if there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic.
- Whenever they are available, use marked crosswalks to cross the street, and look left-right-left for vehicles or bikes before crossing.
- Make sure you never play, push or shove others when you walk around traffic.
- Everyone should watch the road, not their phones.
If you are driving, especially in a neighborhood, look out for pedestrians at all times, everywhere. Foot traffic is likely to be higher as more families and children are at home.
Keep your vehicle locked
Since many families are at home more often, it’s important to remember to lock all unattended vehicles. Young children can see a car as a playground, and crawl in and get trapped. According to NoHeatstroke.org, on average each year, 25% of heatstroke deaths happen after a child gained unsupervised access to a vehicle – this year it’s up to almost 40%.
We recognize this school year is going to look different for every family, but let’s work hard to keep it safe for everyone. Whether you’re a driver, pedestrian, bicyclist, or bus rider – stay alert and drive safely.