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Child Safety: School Bus Still Best

Experts weigh the merits of changing safety standards of school buses.
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Bus Stop Safety

More kids die when they're hit by a school bus than when riding in school buses, according to the NHTSA.

It could happen like this. A second-grader clambers down from the school bus and starts for home, when a sheet of paper, a very important handout from his teacher, slips out of the binder he carries. Caught by the wind, it sails under the bus. He dashes after it. The brake disengages. The engine revs. The wheels turn.

Again, relative to how many millions of kids are let off at bus stops every afternoon, very few fatal accidents of this sort actually happen. Children routinely get lessons at school about the danger of getting in the way of buses, among other bus stop safety rules. Various mirrors help bus drivers see all around the bus, and gates that swing out on the exit side remind children not to cross too close in front of the bus. Drivers are also trained to follow procedures intended to prevent them from accidentally running over their passengers.

Heedless motorists pose a risk, too. Studies have shown that in a single day, hundreds of thousands of cars will pass stopped school buses illegally, and that's not because a stopped bus is inconspicuous.

"It's 40 feet long, it's 11 feet high, it's yellow, it's got flashing red and yellow lights on it, it's got a stop arm that comes out; it's almost inconceivable that people don't see it," Martin says.

No one should be satisfied until the rate is zero, but children are rarely killed by other vehicles at bus stops. The average is five deaths each year in the U.S.

Safety Tips for Kids

Children should learn these basic safety rules:

  • Stay at least 10 feet away from a bus until it's time to get on. Then wait your turn and get on one at a time.
  • Before stepping off the bus, look to be sure a car isn't coming.
  • Don't linger or play near the bus after you leave it.
  • Take 5 giant steps out in front of the bus before you cross the street. Be sure the driver sees you and signals that it's OK to cross in front of the bus.
  • Before crossing the street, make sure all cars on the road are stopped.

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