As we continue to make the adjustment from the freedom of summer to the more rigid structure of the school year, it is wise to discuss school bus safety with our children. This is particularly true if the child will be taking the bus as a main form of commute.
In rural areas, kids may be on the bus for one or even two hours each day, round-trip. In the cities, bus drivers face traffic congestion and constant distractions.
For these reasons and more, it is essential that students know how to stay safe on the bus.
Getting to a Seat. Anyone boarding a bus should move quickly to take a seat. The bus driver should not start moving until the passenger is safely seated. If the child does not have time to do so, then a conversation with the driver is necessary.
Buckle Up, if Possible. If a seat belt is provided, it is advised that the child make good use of it. Practice buckling with the child, making a point to demonstrate how to fasten it, tighten it, and ensure that it lies over the lap and not the stomach.
In many areas of the country, seat belts are not available on school transportation, lowering school bus safety quite a bit. Federal law does not require them in buses weighing over a certain limit. Therefore, it is up to the state to mandate it and not all of them do.
In fact, Florida is one of only six states to require seat belts in all school buses (so Saint Petersburg children will find them on their buses). Fewer still mandate that children must use the devices.
If you wonder why states wouldn’t require them, consider the fact that adding the safety devices to a new bus increases the manufacturing price by up to $15,000. Furthermore, the seat belt assemblies take up space, which reduces the number of seats available to children. There is evidence suggesting that misusing a seat belt could cause more harm than it does good in an accident.
This worries school systems as does the fact that trying to enforce seat belt rules could increase distractions faced by the drivers. For some, the perceived risk of having them installed appears greater than that of a serious accident, medical expenses, or a visit from a personal injury attorney.
Stay Seated. Even if seat belts are not provided, students should be reminded to remain in their seats for the entire ride and not to stand until the bus has come to a complete stop. Once the driver has given the ok, the child should move carefully to the front of the bus and exit.
Don’t Distract the Driver. As we have learned from the numerous recent campaigns in St. Petersburg, distraction on the road is a big cause of accidents. Therefore, children should know to speak quietly and avoid any other possible distractions while the bus is moving. If he or she needs to speak to the driver, it should happen only after the bus has stopped moving.
Keep a Clear Path. In an emergency, everyone may have to exit the bus quickly. This is not easily done if the aisle is cluttered. Therefore, children should keep backpacks and other belongings on their laps or in their seats. These things should never be in the aisle.