School Bus Safety Tips

As kids head back to school, it’s a good time to give them a quick refresher on school bus safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates school bus safety and notes that children are far safer riding on a school bus than they are in the family car. The following information is from the NHTSA.

Bus Safety

Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every State, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

  • Different by Design:School buses are designed so that they’re highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors and stop-sign arms. They also include protective seating, high crush standards and rollover protection features.
  • Protected by the Law:Laws protect students who are getting off and on a school bus by making it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while dropping off or picking up passengers, regardless of the direction of approach.

Seat Belts on School Buses

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968; and 49 States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles. But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks do. Because of these differences, bus passengers experience much less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks and vans.

NHTSA decided the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

Bus Stop Safety

The greatest risk to your child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. Before your child goes back to school or starts school for the first time, it’s important for you and your child to know traffic safety rules. Teach your child to follow these practices to make school bus transportation safer.

For Parents

Safety Starts at the Bus Stop:Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Visit the bus stop and show your child where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Remind your child that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.

Get On and Off Safely:When the school bus arrives, your child should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Your child should use the handrails to avoid falling.

Use Caution Around the Bus:Your child should never walk behind a school bus. If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, tell him/her to 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. Your child should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see him/her. 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. Your child should not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see him/her.

For Drivers

Make school bus transportation safer for everyone by following these practices:

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
  • Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in your State, as well as the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
    • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Picture courtesy of Wkimedia Commonsunder Creative Commons license.

Give Your Child a Quick Readiness Check for This School Year

Surveys show that 90% of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level. However, their teachers indicate that only 39% of students start the school year prepared for grade-level work, and other indicators such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) agree with them. Learning Heroes has created a quick readiness check for families to help them assess if their child has mastered their previous year’s math and reading skills.

The readiness check provides three to five questions for students who completed kindergarten through eighth grade last school year in both math and reading. The results give you a quick assessment of whether your child is ready for the coming school year and where your child may need some extra support getting back up to speed. You can also use Learning Heroes’ Super 5 and Readiness Roadmap to help you find resources to support your child at home.

Help Deciphering What Your Teen is Saying

Just about everyone’s grandmother even understands that LOL is “laugh out loud” and OMG is “Oh my God,” but teen slang continues to grow and change, so here are some places you can go to decipher what you overhear your teen talking about with their squad.

If there’s something new that you can’t find anywhere, the best place to look is the Urban Dictionary. Just keep in mind that like Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary is user-created content, and the language is sometimes coarse or crude when defining a term. And remember, there’s no surer way to look like a lame parent than trying to use teen slang yourself.

Photo © 2013 by duncan cunder Creative Commons license.

End-of-Summer Activities

If you’re hoping to catch the last of summer’s sun and fun, there’s still time to celebrate the season (while avoiding those back-to-school displays at your favorite retailers).

Teachers and parents alike will want to check out the Every Kid in a Park program from the National Park Service.  Every 4thgrader in the United States receives a free parks pass just for completing an online game, and the pass gives that child a free pass into all the national parks, monuments, historic sites, and heritage trails.  The pass is good September 1 of the fourth grade year and runs until August 31st of the following year (just before fifth grade). It’s not too late to get the pass if your child is entering the 5th grade because you’ll still have full use until the end of August.

There are also great resources for teachers to use in the classroom and for field trips. Teachers, parents, and students can use the website to find their nearest national park, and there are parks, monuments, historic sites, and heritage trails scattered all across the state and our boarder states.  Teachers will appreciate the lesson plans and activities, while parents will love the chance to play with their kiddos in the great outdoors.

Richard Louv’s Children & Nature Networkis a worldwide effort to get kids back into nature and avoid what he refers to as “nature deficit disorder.” Cultivating a sustainability mindset in children occurs most often when the adults in their lives model environmental stewardship in big and small ways.  Recycling is one activity to cultivate at home, and taking our children into natural settings is a deeper experience for families.  The Children & Nature Network is made up of many different families who organize regularly scheduled hikes and play dates for families to attend, often at no cost.  Check out the site to find your local events or to start your own!  There are lots of groups around the world. Teachers will also appreciate the Natural Teachers Network resources.

Finally, don’t forget to check in with your local park district in these last weeks of summer. Many offer activities at little to no cost for local residents.  Start your online search for local parks at your city’s website or call your local city hall.