More than 1,300 people were killed in school transportation-related crashes between 2001 and 2010, averaging out to about 137 fatalities per year. Approximately 26 million elementary and secondary school children ride the school bus every day, using one of the 480,000 school buses across the country. With more than 10 billion individual student rides per year, it is crucial to follow simple safety rules to ensure safety for riders, drivers, and pedestrians.

“As families begin to prepare for children returning to school, it’s important for parents and children to go over school bus safety tips together,” said Dawne Gardner, injury prevention coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center. “This will help ensure a safe, enjoyable start to the school year for everyone.”

A serious safety concern for school-age children are the bus’ blind spots. Every year, about 16 children are fatally injured as pedestrians in the loading and unloading zone around school buses.

“A blind spot extends about 10 feet in front of the bus, obstructing the driver’s view,” she says. “Often times, children are not aware of this blind spot and might mistakenly believe that if they can see the bus, the bus driver can see them.”

The best ways to avoid the school bus’ blind spot is to:

  • Encourage kids to stay 10 feet away from the front or back of the school bus
  • Get children to the bus stop at least five minutes early so they won’t put themselves at risk by running to catch the bus
  • Teach children to avoid horseplay while waiting for the bus, so as to prevent both children and their belongings from ending up in the roadway
  • Teach children to take three big steps backward from the curb when the bus arrives
  • Teach children not to approach the bus until it has stopped and the doors are open

There are also simple steps for children to take to ensure safety during the bus ride. Between 8,500 and 12,000 children are injured in school buses every year; about 96 percent of these injuries are minor (i.e. scrapes, bruises, bumps), but the remaining 4 percent are serious injuries (i.e. broken bones or worse).

Children should always use the handrail when boarding the bus and make sure that drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves, and loose clothing does not get caught on the door, seats, or handrail of the bus. Keep loose items clear of the aisles so other students can walk through safely, and always remain seated, facing forward. Parents are encouraged to teach students about proper conduct on the school bus, such as never pushing or shoving other students, no shouting (as not to distract the bus driver), and no throwing objects into, out of, or inside the bus.

School children should always wait until the bus makes a complete stop before standing up and exiting. Teach your child to take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver, and cross only when the driver indicates it is safe.