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Safety Tips For Getting To and From School

Backpacks and lunchboxes aren't the only things kids need to get ready for the school year — safety tips for getting to and from school are imperative, too. From school bus danger zones to safe walking routes, here are some on-the-go safety tips to review with your child.

School Bus Safety

Did you know your child’s safety is most at risk when he’s getting on or off the bus, not while he’s in it? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages kids and parents to be aware of the school bus danger zone, the 10-foot perimeter on either side, in front of, and behind the school bus. That’s the space where school bus drivers aren’t able to see kids well, and it’s the zone where other cars approach the bus — and not all drivers are good about stopping for a school bus’s flashing red lights.

Your child needs to know not only to stay away from the danger zone, but also to wait until his school bus driver gives him the OK to get on or off the bus. Other school bus safety tips to pass on to your child include:

  • Put away cell phones, MP3 players, or other devices when he gets to the bus stop. They can be a distraction that can make your child forget to abide by other safety rules.
  • Cross in front of the bus where he can be seen by the driver.
  • Tell the driver if he dropped something on the ground and needs to pick it up. If he needs to get the driver’s attention, teach him to move back away from the danger zone, and wave his arms.
  • Stay in his seat, and face forward while the bus is moving. Not only does it keep your child safe, but it also reduces distractions for the school bus driver.

Keep reading for tips for kids who walk to school and for those who take public transportation.

Public Transportation Safety Tips

If your child takes the city bus or train to school, the same safety tips apply, but there are some unique ones, too.

  • SafeNY points out that city buses have the same danger zone as school buses, but that other cars do not have to stop when passengers get on the city bus. Also, the city bus will not always wait to make sure your child is safely on the sidewalk or across the street.
  • Teach your child to stay far back from the train platform while he waits for the train and to pay attention to safety announcements made in the station and on the train.

It’s probably a good idea to tackle safety tips a few at a time so your child doesn’t get overwhelmed or fearful. Most importantly, make sure your child knows he can come to you if he feels unsafe or unsure about how to navigate his way to and from school.

Walking to School Safety Tips

Walking to and from school can be a great way for your child to gain some independence and spend some time with her friends. Once you’ve evaluated whether or not you should let your child walk to school alone, here are some things you can do to make sure she’s ready to go safely.

  • Help her find and practice the safest route to school. That’s the one that’s farthest away from traffic, allows her to walk on sidewalks, and has the fewest number of crossings. If you’re unsure which route to take, the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s website has an interactive map to help you out.
  • Put together a group of neighborhood children who can all walk to and from school together. There’s safety in numbers!
  • Point out the houses of friends and family you know well and trust on your child’s walking route. Talk to those people about being a "safe house" for your child in an emergency.
  • Discuss and role-play what your child should do if she’s approached by a stranger.
  • Give your child a flashlight to carry in her backpack if there’s a possibility she’ll be walking home at dusk.
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