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Prepare Children For Safe School Bus Ride
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The big yellow school bus is such a part of daily routines for thousands of Mississippi youth that many people take for granted that it is safe.
While statistics show that the overwhelming majority of youth riding the bus arrive safely every day, accidents do happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are an average of 128 school bus-related fatalities each year. Most fatalities occur in other vehicles involved in the accident, but about 8 percent are school bus passengers.
Safety experts say that getting on and off a bus are the most dangerous aspects of riding a school bus. The bus driver has blind spots directly in front of, along the sides of and behind the bus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends walking five giant steps ahead of the bus before crossing in front, staying three giant steps away from the sides and never walking behind the bus.
Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said parents should teach young children basic safety steps.
"Demonstrate how to stop, look and look again before walking across the street after the bus driver has signaled it is safe," Davis said.
She also recommended children carry or wear an identification tag that includes the child's name, address, phone number and parents' work numbers. This information could also include the child's school name and phone number, the number of the bus they ride and their bus stop.
"Young children can become frightened if they forget which stop to get off at during the first days of school," Davis said. "It is also easy for a child to forget which bus they ride home."
Parents should try to meet their child at the bus stop each day or arrange to have another adult there to see that the child returns home safely. Davis said this daily routine is reassuring to young children.
Linda Patterson, Extension health education specialist, said it is appropriate for parents to remind their children of safe and proper behavior on the bus and at the stop. Sometimes as they play, children can forget to stand well away from the road, to always remain seated on the bus, and to keep their head and arms inside the bus.
Other drivers on the road, as well as school bus passengers, need to know what the buses' flashing lights mean. Yellow lights indicate the bus is about to stop, and lights turn red when the bus has stopped. This means children are loading or unloading and cars must stop.
"Most communities have traffic laws requiring drivers in all directions to stop, including oncoming four-lane traffic. Drivers also should never pass a stopped school bus," Patterson said.
All school bus riders need to know where the emergency exits are off the bus and how to use them.