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October 19, 2022

How to Keep Your Child Safe on the School Bus

The first crash I was in just happened to be on a bus when I was going to school. I was 13 and the bus driver slammed into the back of another bus while he was looking in a rear-view mirror because a little girl was standing. He was trying to get her to sit down. I was the bus monitor and it was my job to make sure everyone remained in their seats. She was so short, I didn’t see her over the seat backs on the bus. When the crash happened, my friend sitting next to me slammed into the rail on the back of the seat in front of her and so did I. Unfortunately, my mouth hit the rail because I extended my arm to protect the girl next to me. I still do that to this day, even though we now have seat belts. There were 8 of us injured, none seriously, and I remember how excited I was to go to the hospital in an ambulance. My friend broke her collarbone. I chipped some teeth and bloodied my lip. We were the worst injured. We were so lucky. But every time I look at my chipped teeth, I think of that little girl standing on the bus, who caused a crash and how I didn’t see her and what could have happened.

This year nearly 26 million children will be starting their school day by boarding the 480,000 school buses used to carry them to class.  It is our responsibility to make sure they arrive alive. 

According to NHTSA, 

From 2011 to 2020:

• 1,009 Fatal school transportation related crashes

• 52% – Over half of school-age pedestrians killed in school transportation related crashes were 5- to 10-years-old.

• 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians (183) than occupants of school transportation vehicles (113) in school-transportation-related crashes.

Parents and children shouldn’t have to worry about the dangers associated with riding to and from school our goal should be zero crashes.

Bus drivers have a tremendous responsibility and most of them do it very well. They need all the cooperation and support from parents they can get. When you are hauling several busloads a day, patience isn’t just a virtue it is a necessity! Not only do we want our driver’s attention focused on the task at hand, driving the bus, but we want to ensure that our children’s behavior makes that job easy. It doesn’t help when our children are screaming, playing loud music on the “I” gadgets, jumping up and down, fighting and wreaking general havoc.

As parents we need to remind our children that disruptive behavior on a bus can cause crashes, (outside of being taped and posted all over the web to show how foolish our children can behave.)

Our children need to understand that they can avoid potentially dangerous behavior by:

  • Keeping their limbs inside
  • Minimizing the sound on their smart phones
  • Sitting as soon as they board and remaining seated
  • Not screaming at the child in the back of the bus
  • Not playing loud music on their latest gadget
  • Not fighting or demonstrating any other aggressive behavior
  • Not distracting the driver with idle chatter
  • Staying a safe distance from the road while waiting for the bus
  • Buckling up when seat belts are available

Drivers also have a responsibility when they see a school bus. They need to stop when the lights are flashing. “In a 2019 survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, bus drivers reported that more than 95,000 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day during the 2018-2019 school year.

More school-age pedestrians have been killed between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. than any other time of day from 2012 to 2021, according to a 2022 NHTSA report.” All these deaths are preventable. It is up to us to make the wise choices when we drive that will keep these children alive. 

If there is a yellow flashing light on the bus that means they are preparing to stop and either drop off a child or pick one up. The drivers behind the bus should do the same, prepare to stop.  If you are driving near a school beware of children walking and on bicycles. Make sure you are paying attention to the road and not your cell phone or Bluetooth. The same is true when you are backing down a driveway or coming out of a garage. Always look for others before you start the car. 

Bus drivers have a responsibility to stay off their cell phones while driving, remain sober, and avoid impairing prescription drugs. We too need to be responsible parents and ensure our children remain seated so that the bus drivers can focus on their driving and keep our children safe. We also need to be responsible drivers and make sure our priorities when driving are keeping others and ourselves safe.

Candace Lightner

President and Founder, We Save Lives

Founder, MADD

1 Comment

  1. Kathi says:

    I am doing a school paper on MADD and I have been working on it for two straight days. Just when I think I have what I need I find more. I am so sorry for Ms. Lightner and those who have lost loved ones to drunk driving. I am having a difficult time with my paper because of the fact that these deaths could have been prevented but well… I have learned so much and had no clue about all this with the “laws” and I am going to do the best I can to get the message out. Please all of you who are able to carry on this mission, never give up. Thank you for what you do.

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