'Obey the Stop Arm': Oct. 19-23 is National School Bus Safety Week

Monday, October 12, 2009

During National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 19-23, the Safe Kids Kansas organization is reminding parents and caregivers that school bus transportation is the safest way for school-aged children to ride.

School buses are nearly eight times safer than passenger vehicles. Getting to and from the bus is more dangerous than riding the bus. Last year, 26 children were killed as pedestrians getting on or off a school bus, or while waiting at the school bus stop. In fact, five times as many children were killed while getting on or off the bus than while riding it, according to Safe Kids Kansas.

The theme of this year's observance is "Avoid Harm, Obey The Stop Arm."

Fatal crashes involving school bus occupants are extremely rare events, even though school buses serve daily in every community. About 25 million children ride school buses to and from school each day.

"Teach your children about the danger zone around the school bus, where the driver can't see children on the ground," Safe Kids Kansas State Director Cherie Sage said. "Children should make eye contact with the driver when loading and unloading and cross the street only after the driver indicates it is safe. Young children should take more than five giant steps away from the bus to be sure the bus driver can see them. Older kids who must cross the street should look to the bus driver for an 'OK' sign before crossing, and always cross in front of the bus."

Kids should stand on the grass or sidewalk while waiting for the bus and not enter the street until the driver has opened the door of the bus.

"Kids tend to run toward the bus and assume that drivers will see them and wait for them to cross the street," Sage said. "Remind your child to stay within the bus driver's sight."

Safe Kids Kansas also offers children the following reminders from the National Association for Pupil Transportation:

* Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early.

* While waiting for the bus, stay in a safe place away from the street. Stand at least five giant steps away from the edge of the road.

* Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it's okay before stepping onto the bus.

* Be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps or dangling objects do not get caught in the handrail or door when exiting the bus.

* If something falls under or near the bus, tell the driver. Never try to pick it up.

* When getting on or off the bus, look for the bus safety lights and make sure they are flashing.

* Be alert to traffic. When getting on or off the bus, look left, right, left before entering or crossing the street.

* Stay seated and sit quietly so that the driver is not distracted.

* Some school buses now have seat belts. Those children who ride buses with seat belts should learn to use the seat belt correctly.

Drivers should be reminded not to pass a school bus with its lights flashing. In Kansas, it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus from either direction when the stop arm is extended.

National School Bus Safety Week is observed every year during the third week of October and led by the National Association for Pupil Transportation. For more information, visit www.napt.org.

"School buses are, by far, the safest way for kids of all ages to get to and from school," Sage said. "School buses are designed with safety features no other vehicles have. The padded, high-backed seats on school buses are close together to create protective compartments, like egg cartons."

For more information about school bus safety for children, visit www.usa.safekids.org.

Safe Kids Kansas is a nonprofit coalition of more than 70 statewide organizations and businesses dedicated to preventing accidental injuries to Kansas children up to 14 years of age.