The new school year begins August 21. While parents might be busy helping children shop for school supplies, clothes, and other necessities, talking about personal safety and reminding children about common safety rules also is imperative to start the new year right and help children feel empowered.
Wentzville Fire Protection District compiled a list of back-to-school safety tips for parents. Use these tips to open a discussion with children and encourage them to practice good safety habits at the bus stop and while walking or biking to and from school!
Safety at the School Bus Stop
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 24 million children rely on the school bus for transportation. Each day, thousands of children in our community wait at their designated bus stop for the arrival of the school bus.
While many parents wait for the bus with their child, not all children are supervised at the bus stop. For middle school and high school students, the wait for the bus is an independent responsibility. After all, most teens don’t want their parents hovering over them.
These 10 tips can help children feel safer at the bus stop and feel empowered if they are in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation:
1. Know the bus schedule.
Missing the bus complicates the school day; children have to wait for their parent, grandparent or another adult to give them a ride, and the late arrival to school could result in an unexcused tardy. Parents should always research the bus arrival time for their child; make sure the child arrives at the bus stop earlier than the stated time.
2. Know the bus number.
Each bus has a specific route. Children should know their bus number to ensure they board the correct bus for their trip home. Parents can give children a note about their bus number, but teachers also help younger children to ensure they don’t board the incorrect bus.
3. Always stand away from the roadway.
Some bus stops are located in a neighborhood, but others are in busier areas. When waiting for the bus, children should stay on the sidewalk and away from the road.
4. Wait for the bus driver to show the stop signs and open the doors.
The school bus always stops and a safety stop sign is displayed when the doors open. This alerts cars in both directions that children are boarding. Children should always wait for the safety stop signs before approaching the bus.
5. Remember to look both ways!
Children might need to cross the street to board the bus. They should waiting until the stop signs from the bus are displayed before crossing the street. In addition, children should never assume it is safe to cross. While traffic must stop for public
school buses, not every driver is attentive. Children should look both ways before crossing the street.
6. Never talk to strangers or approach their vehicle.
Be mindful of ‘stranger danger.’ Children should NEVER approach an unfamiliar vehicle or accept a ride from a stranger. Parents should set up a password that only trusted friends and adults know and can communicate to the child in an emergency.
7. Be aware of all surroundings.
When waiting at the bus stop, it’s common for older children to play on their phone. Children need to be aware of their surroundings; this is important to ensure they can react if a stranger approaches or if there is any emergency situation.
8. Be respectful of others.
Bullying can happen on a bus, at school, online, or at a bus stop. Understand that words and actions have an impact and consequences. Treat others with respect and kindness.
9. Follow the rules of the bus.
Bus drivers will often provide children with instructions about the behavior expectations for the bus. Parents should ensure children engage in appropriate behavior on the bus and at the bus stop, too.
10. If you see something, say something.
Children who see or experience a bullying situation or any issue that threatens the safety of another individual should report it. Notify a bus driver or a teacher as soon as possible.
Safety Tips for Students Who Walk or Bike to School
Rutgers University reports that more than one out of 10 students walk or bike to school. This habit is great for health, but it can create unique safety concerns if children (and parents) are not mindful.
In some school districts, bus transportation is only available if children live more than a mile from school. For children who live closer, transportation responsibilities fall on parents. Depending on the age of the child and the availability of safe walking routes, parents could allow children to walk to school or ride their bikes.
Before encouraging children to walk to school (or bike), keep these tips in mind:
1. Stick to a buddy system.
Children should not bike or walk to school alone. There is safety in numbers. Younger children should walk to school with an adult. Older children should walk or bike with friends.
2. Abide by all safety / traffic laws.
Bikes and pedestrians must abide by the rules of traffic. Bike riders should yield and mind common traffic rules. While walking, children (and adults) should look both ways before crossing streets and must be mindful of signs that show when it is safe to cross.
3. Be aware of stranger danger.
Children should not approach any unknown vehicle. If a stranger approaches a child, parents should empower them on how to react and respond. Ideally, any child walking or biking to school should have a cell phone.
4. Bike riders must wear a helmet.
Accidents can happen when riding a bike. Children should always wear a helmet when biking to school.
5. During dark mornings, wear reflective clothing.
Children biking or walking during dark mornings should wear clothing that allows them to be visible to drivers. Bikes can have a reflective surface to increase visibility and safety.
6. Map out the safest route.
Before encouraging children to walk or bike to school, parents should research the safest and shortest route to get to school (and back home). In some situations, the
safest route requires a longer commute. Children should know how long it takes them to walk / bike to school and plan accordingly.
7. Avoid routes with blind spots or areas that are isolated.
When planning routes, parents should avoid any roads or areas that are isolated or that are ‘blind spots’ for drivers. Examples include rural roads or roads with dangerous curves.
8. Find a safe place along the route.
If children are injured or experience an issue that makes them feel unsafe, they need to know where they can go for help. Parents should review the route and find public spaces where children can find adults who could help them in an emergency or dangerous situation.
9. Transportation planning requires a backup option.
During extreme weather, walking or biking to school won’t always be a safe or comfortable option. Hot temperature, extreme cold, snow, or rain requires a backup transportation plan.
10. Dress for the trek.
Children who bike or walk to school need to dress for the weather and for the commute. A dress might not be the best choice for a bike ride, and sandals could lead to blisters while walking. Ensure children wear layers during cold weather and stay hydrated if the weather is warmer.
Wentzville Fire Protection District is committed to keeping all students safe. Before school starts, empower children about the importance of staying safe; review school bus routines and information for students who will be taking the bus, and map out safe walking/biking routes to ensure children who live closer to school know their travel plans.
About the Author
Wentzville Fire District is one of the largest fire districts in St. Charles County, covering 88 square miles. The fire district is committed to serving and protecting our community through the highest quality of fire protection, prevention, education, and community outreach.