By: Andrea M. Cohick, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham
As summer draws to a close and children start heading back to school, family life can get pretty hectic. It's important to remember – and share with your children – some key tips that will help keep them safe when traveling to and from school.
According to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, more than 25 million children, or 55.3% of the US public K–12 student population, ride one of 475,000 school buses each day, totaling more than a billion student trips per year. As a result of COVID-19 precautions the percentage of students riding school buses will likely decline due the modified hybrid schedules and/or the remote cyber learning from home, but we are still bound to see the iconic yellow school bus during morning and evening commutes.
Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a school bus to school instead of traveling by car, according to the American School Bus Council. However, kids face real risks when walking to the bus stop, and when getting on and off the bus. More school-age pedestrians are injured, or worse, during the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. than any other time of day according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Whether children walk, ride their bicycle, or take the bus to school, it is extremely important that they take proper safety precautions. Here are some tips from the National Safety Council to make sure your child safely travels to school:
Review walking safety rules and practice walking to school with your child.
- Walk on the sidewalk, if one is available; when on a street with no sidewalk, walk facing the traffic.
- Before you cross the street, stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming.
- Make eye contact with drivers before crossing and always cross streets at crosswalks or intersections.
- Stay alert and avoid distracted walking.
Teach your child the rules of the road and practice riding the bike route to school with your child.
- Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, and in a single file.
- Come to a complete stop before crossing the street; walk bikes across the street.
- Stay alert and avoid distracted riding.
- Make sure your child always wears a properly fitted helmet and bright clothing.
Teach your children school bus safety rules and practice with them.
- Go to the bus stop with your child to teach them the proper way to get on and off the bus.
- Teach your children to stand six feet (or three giant steps) away from the curb.
- Wait until the school bus fully stops before walking towards it and look both ways before crossing the street.
- Remain visible to the bus driver at all times. If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least 10 feet ahead of it and look both ways before crossing. Be sure the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
Driving Your Child to School
Stay alert and avoid distracted driving.
- Obey school zone speed limits and follow your school's drop-off procedure.
- Abide by school bus warning lights. Yellow flashing lights warn drivers to slow down and prepare to stop, because the school bus is about to stop and pick up or drop off students. Red flashing lights followed by an outstretched stop sign, is used to notify drivers to stop at a safe distance from the bus while students get on and/or off of the bus.
- Make eye contact with children who are crossing the street.
- Slow down when driving through neighborhoods and be on the lookout for children in the roadway.
- Always make sure the roadway is clear before backing your vehicle out of a parking space, driveway, or garage.
- Never pass a bus loading or unloading children.
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them to safely enter and exit the bus.
In addition to practicing and modeling safe behaviors with your children, ask your school principal if there is a Safe Routes to School program or other school-based safety committees and initiatives you can get involved in.
Stay alert, whether you’re a driver, walker, bicyclist, bus rider, or parent. We at Metzger Wickersham wish you a safe and healthy school year.
Click here to download the National Safety Council’s printable back-to-school safety checklist.