Source: U.S. Department of Education
School buses have come a long way since horse-drawn carriages first transported children to school back in 1886. Today, school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation on the road. School bus fatalities are relatively rare, even without the use of seatbelts.
However, children, parents, and bus drivers all need to do their part to ensure a safe and secure bus ride to and from school. Even something as convenient as the school bus has its own set of safety precautions that communities should be aware of.
Tips for a safe ride
Even with the addition of new-age safety technology like bus monitors and CCTV security on school buses, parents and children need to practice safe bus riding etiquette to avoid injuries. To ensure a safe and secure ride, remember to use the following tips while riding the school bus:
Tips for safely entering the bus:
- When waiting for the bus to arrive, stay away from traffic and avoid partaking in any reckless or careless behavior. Stay away from the street
- Wait until the bus has stopped and the door has opened before approaching the bus
- When boarding the bus, use the handrail to avoid accidents
Appropriate bus behavior:
- Although seat belts are not often used, please use them if they are available
- Use your inside voice to avoid distracting the driver
- Stay in your seat and keep your hands to yourselves, away from the windows and aisles
- Keep the aisles clear of your belongings, including books and bags
- Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat
Tips to safely exit the bus:
- When exiting the bus, please use the handrail
- If you have to cross in front of the bus, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver and he can see you
- Before crossing the street, wait for a signal from the driver and then look left, right, and then left again
- Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver signals it is safe and stay away from the rear wheels of the bus
- Austin Independent School District: The Austin ISD offers parents and students tips for safely entering and exiting the school bus.
- First Student: First Student is a leading school transportation solutions provider in North America.
- Daily Mom: Daily Mom explains bus riding preparation, etiquette, and ways to make school bus riding a fun and memorable part of childhood.
- Parents Central: Parents Central works to keep children and teens safe and secure while riding in school buses and driving vehicles.
- Safe Kids Worldwide: Safe Kids Worldwide works to prevent injuries in children by discussing prevention.
Identifying safety and security threats
Parents and children can never be too prepared to handle a difficult situation that may arise on or off the school bus. To ensure child safety on the bus, at the bus stop, and on school grounds, it’s important that communities be aware of any possible security threats or incidents and how to handle them.
First, parents and children should know how to define security threats and incidents. A security threat is any source that may result in an event or occurrence that endangers life or property and may result in the loss of services or equipment.
On the other hand, a security incident is an unforeseen event that doesn’t necessarily result in death, injury, or property damage, but may result in interruption of service.
In the event of either occurrence, communities should respond accordingly and take action when necessary, including an evacuation of the threat area. Witnesses should collect information regarding the incident or threat, including:
- The location and direction of the threat/incident
- A detailed description of the situation
- A description of any identification, including license plate numbers, vehicle color/make/model, and a physical description of the offender
If the threat takes place on a school bus, children should be safely evacuated in the following steps:
- Shut down the vehicle in a safe location, away from harm
- Relocate students a minimum of 300 feet upwind and upgrade of the vehicle
- Prohibit the use of cellular devices anywhere within 50 feet of the vehicle
- Bring any onboard communication devices with you during evacuation, if possible
- U.S. Department of Education: The U.S. Department of Education explains how to manage threatening situations to ensure child safety at school.
- City of Eagan: The City of Eagan explains how drivers can safely share the road with school buses and children.
- New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT): The NYAPT works to provide children with a positive and reinforcing school bus experience.
- National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS): The NASDPTS provides leadership, assistance, and motivation to ensure high-quality school bus transportation across the US.
- Safe Havens International: They work with schools to ensure safety in school through planning, coordinating and evaluating crisis simulations.
Look out for suspicious activities & items
In addition to identifying possible threats on a school bus and on school grounds, children, parents, communities, and staff should all maintain a high level of awareness at all times. Surrounding people, events, activities, and items should all be monitored and reported as necessary. Suspicious people or devices to be aware of could include:
- People who seem out of place or lost
- People who are wondering around near bus stops, on school grounds, and in parking or maintenance areas
- Individuals who appear to be recording footage or taking photos
- Anyone causing distractions or displaying disruptive behavior
- Individuals who seem to be expressing an interest in students or staff
- A person who quickly abandons an item before fleeing the scene
- Anyone in possession of a weapon or a dangerous item
- Illegally parked vehicles, speeding, or vehicles following closely behind
- Items that seem to be leaking or seeping a hazardous substance
- Devices that are connected to wires, timers, tanks, or bottles
- Items that appear to have an unknown message attached to them
By making yourself aware of these types of people and devices that could be dangerous, you will play a major role in keeping your community safe.
- American School Bus Council: American School Bus Council works to provide safe, effective, and efficient transportation to schoolchildren who ride the school bus each day.
- National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT): NAPT is dedicated to supporting and developing the workers who provide safe and efficient pupil transportation.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): NHTSA aims to achieve the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety.
- New York State: New York State offers the Operation Safe Stop initiative to educate the public about the dangers of illegally passing a stopped school bus.
- National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): The NCSL works to promote policy innovation and communication among state legislatures.
Identifying and responding to suspicious people
If you notice any strange behavior coming from an unknown person, vehicle, object, or device, you can choose to ask further questions or seek assistance. You should only speak to suspicious people if you feel absolutely comfortable doing so.
If you do speak to the suspicious individual, be sure to ask them the following questions, but do so in a warm and encouraging tone and avoid sounding aggressive:
- Do you need help or assistance with anything?
- Do you have any identification that you could show me?
- Who are you visiting and why?
- What is the purpose of your visit here?
If the person refuses to answer your questions, please escort them to an open area and seek additional assistance from somebody in charge. If the suspicious person flees the scene, remember to make note of which direction they are heading in and pay attention to their vehicle and physical appearance.
By making parents, students, and communities aware of any potential threats, safety, and security hazards on and off the school bus and school grounds, we can continue to keep students as safe as possible while at school and out in the community.
- U.S. Security Associates: U.S. Security Associates provides security-related services to 160 cities in 45 states.
- National School Safety and Security Services: They specialize in emergency planning and crisis response.
- National Terror Alert: The National Terror Alert works to educate the general public on what to do if they suspect terrorist activity.
- School Transportation News: School Transportation News is a monthly magazine that aims to educate and inform the professionals who transport our nation’s pupils.
- National Education Association (NEA): The NEA is committed to advancing the the cause of public education.