Watch out for buses

Published 10:39 pm Monday, August 24, 2009

With area schools about to return to session, authorities are urging parents and teachers to remind children about safety rules when riding the bus.

“We must ensure that school children wait in a safe place at the bus stop and that they enter and exit the bus environment safely,” said John Saunders, director of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Virginia Highway Safety Office. “I urge all parents to teach and reinforce bus safety rules to their children so they become habits.”

In Virginia last year, six children died while getting on or off a school bus. In Courtland, 4-year-old Jameer Khamarie Woodley, a pre-kindergarten student at Riverdale Elementary, was struck and killed Jan. 9 after getting off the bus for school. No charges were filed in that accident after an investigation.

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Studies have shown that a school bus is the safest way to get to school, according to the Transportation Research Board, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. A child riding in a school bus is 13 times safer than if he were riding in another mode of travel.

While the bus is headed to its destination, other drivers on the road can help play a role in school bus safety. Awareness is key, Lonnie Reavis, coordinator of transportation for Suffolk Public Schools, said.

“Buses make frequent stops,” Reavis said. “We had a number of incidents last year where cars ran into the back of buses.”

Parents play a vital role in ensuring that children are following the rules of the road when it comes to bus safety, Reavis said. He suggested that parents go over the list of bus rules and regulations found in the handbook before school starts.

“Go over that with the kids so the kids know what’s expected of them and their behavior on the bus,” he said. “It’s the same types of behavior we’re expecting kids to display in the classrooms.”

Following are the main safety rules parents should teach their children about the bus:

Be alert to traffic. Check both ways for cars before stepping off the bus.

Make eye contact with the bus driver, and wait for the bus driver’s signal before crossing the street.

Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus to cross the street.

While waiting for the bus, stay in a safe place away from the street.

Before leaving the sidewalk, look for the flashing red lights.

Never go under the bus to retrieve something you’ve dropped.

Wait for the bus driver’s signal before crossing the street.

Stay seated on the bus, and keep all parts of your body inside the bus, even when it is parked. Do not move from seat to seat while the bus is in motion.

Do not yell or scream on the bus.

Do not push others when getting on or off the bus.

Report bullying or unsafe conditions to the driver or aide immediately.

Do not throw things from the bus.

Some tips for parents to follow include the following:

Review the safety tips with your child regularly.

Get to know the parents of other riders, and team up with them to monitor the bus stops and bus routes. Voice concerns immediately to the school district.

Attend “back to school” nights and tour your child’s school bus.

Get to know the school’s transportation coordinator and your child’s bus driver. Keep phone numbers handy.

Walk your child to and from the bus stop. If possible, wait with him or her until the bus arrives.