By Anita Dietz
Special to GUIDON
School bus safety is everyone’s responsibility. Summer vacation is over, and drivers will have to plan their daily commute with school bus safety in mind.
If you have students in your household, warn your children of the many hazards associated with simply walking to the bus stop, waiting at the bus stop, and riding the bus to and from school.
Look over these tips to help keep our children safe on Missouri roadways this school year.
— Always be extra cautious at crosswalks. Children may be rushing and suddenly appear.
— Watch for children walking along roadways. They may cross without looking.
— Realize that children at bus stops may suddenly dart into the roadway. When you see children near the road, slow down and expect the unexpected. Know that others may be near-by or running late and not paying attention to traffic, especially if a bus is approaching.
— Learn the flashing light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists about stopping:
Yellow flashing lights: Bus is preparing to stop. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop.
Red flashing lights: Bus has stopped. Motorists must come to a complete stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the arm is retracted, and the bus begins moving before the motorist can start driving again.
— When driving your children to school, deliver and pick them up as close to the school as possible. Most schools have a drop off/pick up lane.
— If your child is walking to the bus stop alone, try to link him/her up with others so they can walk to the bus stop together. If you notice children that may have moved into the neighborhood over the summer, ask if they want to walk with your group.
— Children who walk to school should have a planned direct route that crosses the fewest streets possible.
— Walk the route with your child beforehand and again a few days after school starts to ensure the planned route is being used.
— Remind children to stop at the edge of the road and look left, right, then look left again, before crossing.
— At intersections, have them look over their shoulder for turning vehicles.
— Ensure that children continue to arrive early each day at the bus stop. Children running up to bus stops at the last minute are more likely to make safety mistakes and suffer an injury by falling or being hit by vehicles that may have blind spots.
— Don’t forget to remind children that a stranger is anyone you or your children don’t know well or don’t trust and to never go with a stranger for any reason.
— Remind your children to always stay seated on the bus and to not put heads or arms outside the bus windows.
— When getting off of the bus, children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, exit using the handrail to avoid falls and cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus.
— Remind children who walk or bike to school to obey all traffic signals, signs and traffic officers.
— Bicycle helmets can reduce up to 85 percent of head injuries, so ensure your child has a properly fitting helmet if he or she will be riding to school.
— Periodically ask your child to recite your address, an emergency phone number, and when to call 911.
Advance planning and periodic reminders for both drivers and students on back-to-school activities can help to keep children safe. Everyone’s goal is a safe and happy school year. For more local traffic safety information go to the Missouri Department of Transportation website at www.modot.mo.gov/safety/index.htm.
(Editor’s note: Dietz is a safety and occupational health specialist with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Safety Office.)