Back to School Road Safety: Tips for Kids at Bus Stops, Drop-Offs and While Walking or Bicycling to Class

By Amy Watkins, MPH

It’s back to school time, and that means school buses, crowded drop-offs and bicycling or walking along busy roads. Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States, so it’s important to talk to your child now about being safe around buses and cars. 

Amy Watkins, MPH, from Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center shares tips.

At the Bus Stop

  • Make sure your child knows that the bus stop is not a place to run or play. When they’re near the road, they need to pay attention.
  • Choose a place to wait that is at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Show your child the spot and let them know it is safest to wait there.
  • When the school bus arrives, your child should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the safety lights and signs are activated. When the door opens, it is safe to approach the bus.
  • When getting on the bus, use the handrails to avoid falling.
  • Never walk behind a school bus.
  • If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, they should walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus. Before crossing, they should make eye contact with the bus driver to make sure the driver can see them.
  • If your child drops something near the school bus, like a ball or book, the safest thing is for your child to tell the bus driver right away, or leave the item and tell a parent. Your child should not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see them.

> For more helpful resources, check out our Back to School Kit

At School

School parking lots are busy places with lots of people and cars moving around, and kids can be small and hard to see. Due to COVID-19, more parents than usual may be driving their children to school, and that could mean more cars moving around the school entrance.

  • When your child arrives at school, whether via the bus or getting dropped off by car, they must use extra caution on their walk from the parking lot to the entrance.
  • Talk to kids about the basic rules of road safety, such as looking left, right, and left again before walking in areas where there are cars.
  • Remind kids not to walk between or directly behind cars and to avoid darting out into the pathway of moving vehicles.

As a parent, there are many things you can do to make school drop-offs and pick-ups safer.

  • If you are dropping your child off, use extra caution in the school parking lot.
  • Don’t rely on your car’s backup cameras alone. Go slow and look over your shoulder when backing up.
  • Be aware that children may dart out from between cars, and be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Drive slowly on your way to work or home with the knowledge that children are waiting at bus stops or walking and biking to school.

> Here’s a list of what to practice for classroom safety during COVID-19

Walking and Bicycling to School

During these times of COVID-19, more children may choose to walk or bicycle to school instead of taking the bus.

  • If your child wants to ride or walk to school, plan the safest route for them to take and go on a few practice runs.
  • If they are walking, remind them about using sidewalks and crosswalks.
  • If they are biking, make sure they have a properly fitted helmet and know the rules of the road. Check out these tips from Safe Kids Worldwide.
  • If you want to learn how to make walking and biking to school more safe for children in your community, visit saferoutesinfo.org for great info on how to get started.

Road safety is easy to take for granted: We are comfortable around motor vehicles and often don’t give them a second thought. But all it takes is a second for a situation to turn deadly. Talk to your children about road safety, and remind them of the simple things they can do to keep themselves safe on their way to school.

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