Keeping the Road to School Safe – Tips for Upcoming School Bus Safety Week
Children and teenagers around the country are well past the new school year formalities of meeting teachers and classmates and reviewing forgotten material; they are in the thick of the studies. That makes October a great month to remind students, parents, and the community about safety issues regarding school buses on the road. National School Bus Safety Week is October 17-21.
The rate of deaths and injuries in crashes involving school buses showed the lowest rate in the last 10 years. Also, it was a 50% decrease compared with the year before. School closures related to the pandemic are likely to have contributed to the decrease.
Zutobi has analyzed the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data regarding school-bus related crashes and has prepared some useful tips to keep drivers, students, and the community safe. These tips will help keep the crash rate low as it was during the pandemic.
A Safe Mode of Transportation for School Kids
Although we hear of the occasional school bus related accident, school buses are generally the safest way to transport our children to and from school each day. According to the Schoolbus Fleet, just under half a million school buses transported about 23 million elementary and secondary students to and from school in 2018-19. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that buses are safer than walking or riding in a car to school and advocates for lap-and-shoulder belt safety restraints to improve their safety.
While school bus-related accidents killed 54 people and injured 4,800 people in the U.S. in 2020, that number was a 50% decrease compared with the year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Between 2011 and 2020, about 70% of the deaths in school bus-related accidents were passengers of non-bus vehicles and 16% were pedestrians. Only 5% were students, 5% were drivers, and 3% were bicyclists. Injury rates during this period, on the other hand, were distributed differently with about one-third being students, 8% being drivers, and more than half were occupants of other vehicles. For example, in the year 2020, 3,400 people injured in school bus related accidents were drivers or passengers of other cars.
School Bus Safety Tips
Part of the reason for School Bus Safety Week is to publicly educate and remind all of us to boost bus-related safety behavior. Zutobi offers the following reminders for not only parents who rely on school buses to transport their children to and from school, but also for all other drivers who share the roads with school buses on a daily basis.
Here are a few things parents can do as well as enforce with their children to keep them safe while taking the school bus:
- Pack student belongings in a backpack to avoid dropping items.
- Dress them in bright colors to improve visibility.
- Encourage them to leave early or on time.
- Walk with your child to the bus stop.
- Practice and model safe pedestrian behavior.
- Have children wait where drivers can see them.
- Prohibit playing in the street or with items like balls that can roll into traffic.
- Teach children to talk with drivers about any dropped items.
- Meet returning children on the side of the street where they dismount.
- Limit mobile devices to seated students with muted headphones.
Share the Road: Tips for the Broader Community
Children are heading off to school around the same time that many adults in the community are driving to work. It’s important that other drivers are extra aware and cautious during these early morning hours as well as in the afternoon when children are returning home. These precautions not only protect school bus passengers but also everyone sharing the roads.
- Come to a complete stop as school buses are loading an unloading.
- Obey speed limits in school zones.
- Yield to pedestrians, especially children, and obey any crossing guards.
- Increase following distances when driving behind a school bus to ensure you have adequate time to stop.
- Never pass a bus when it is stopped from either direction.
- If you are walking, biking, or driving near a bus, maintain adequate distance and be extra aware.
School Bus Driver Shortages
More than 77% of State of School Transportation survey respondents “reported that the ongoing bus driver shortage is having a negative impact on school district transportation operations,” according to HopSkipDrive.
This problem began years before the global pandemic and has gotten worse as a result. The top five reasons cited for the shortages were recruiting issues, low driver pay, drivers retiring, COVID-19 concerns and losing drivers to the private sector. As a result, existing bus routes can be extra long with students riding buses for more than an hour, overcrowding, and stressed out bus drivers.
There is only one way to address the shortage – educate more bus drivers. Zutobi is an FMCSA-approved theory training provider, offering online resources for those interested in obtaining a school bus license and making it easier and safer for children to get to and from school.
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