Tips for School Bus Riders
Julia Rudden still remembers the day her daughter fell asleep on the school bus on the way home and was transported back to the bus barn. The driver was new and had missed her daughter's bus stop.
Parents may fret about losing a new rider in the school bus shuffle of the first day. Maybe kids won't recognize their bus number, or the driver, or think to look for buddies. They might be too shy to ask for help, or they might fall asleep and miss their stop. In fact, Rudden thinks it's worth skipping the first-day bus riding experience while drivers familiarize themselves with the route. Other parents say it's best to jump in while everyone is feeling new to the routine.
Once kids get the hang of things, the bus offers opportunity for growth and independence. It's also the safest (even safer than air travel) and greenest way to get to school. Here's why.
School buses are easily visible by their color and size, and their compartment height raises kids above car-impact height. They're equipped with flashing lights, a stop sign arm, cross view mirrors, and a crossing arm in front that forces kids to cross where the driver can see them. Buses have high, padded seats that protect kids much like an egg carton protects eggs. And the driver is a trained professional.
Children are 13 times safer on school buses than in other travel modes, according to the Transportation Research Board, part of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, teens are 44 percent more likely to have a fatal accident if driving themselves or riding with another teen. Even if your own teen is a safe driver, there's no guarantee others are.
More than half the nation's school kids ride the bus to school every day, according to the American School Bus Council (ASBC). Riding the bus takes cars off the road, reduces carbon monoxide and, perhaps most importantly, reduces car congestion at the school during arrival and release times.
Ready to take the bus? Here are a few tips for making the transition smoother for everyone.
Review bus safety and behavior expectations
Below is a partial list of what to talk about with your child. Check with your district or www.americanschoolbuscouncil.org for more guidelines.
* Stay seated while the bus is moving.
* Talk quietly to avoid distracting the driver.
* Keep hands inside the windows.
* Report any problems to your bus driver.
* Walk several feet away from the bus when exiting so the driver can see you.
* Always cross in front of the bus (never behind).
* Never retrieve something dropped near the bus unless you alert the driver.
* Never retrieve something from under the bus.
* Be aware of the traffic environment as you exit the bus.
Meet parents of fellow riders
Meeting other parents helps you learn about other riders. Consider taking turns monitoring the bus stop and the bus route. Prior to the first day, show your child the bus stop.
Try to drive in the same line of travel the bus will take if you know it," says Brad Clarkson, a school bus driver for seven years. "What landmarks can the child identify that would let her know her stop is next?"
Troubleshoot the first day
Clarkson recommends equipping young passengers with index cards with name, address and phone number in case kids can't remember their stop or their address. Also write the bus number on the other side of the card, especially if your child has trouble recognizing numbers.
Blair suggests parents teach children to tell their driver they're lost if they miss their stop and, for the very young, not to get off unless their parent or designated adult is at the stop to meet them. Most districts won't allow kindergartners off the bus unless kids' caregivers are there. Children of any age should never get off at an alternative stop.
Befriend your child's driver
School bus drivers are professionals who care about kids and have a responsibility to see every child delivered safely home. They're just as concerned about bullying as teachers and receive training to deal with behavior issues, according to the ASBC. But do report problems promptly to the driver or to your child's teacher.
Sending a child off on the bus feels daunting to any parent of a new rider. Remember your child will learn the routine quickly. In a couple weeks he'll be an old pro.
Joanna Nesbit writes for national and regional parenting publications.