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Navigating the School Bus Safety Zone

Sep 27, 2017, 10:52 AM

October is National School Bus Safety Month. Learn more at

Teaching students about how to be safe while using school bus transportation is pivotal to reducing the amount of unnecessary injuries and deaths that occur each year. The major problem with school buses are that students that are putting themselves in what are commonly known as “danger zones”. Those zones are anywhere that the bus driver or other vehicles cannot see the student. The general rule is that anything ten feet or closer to the bus is a “danger zone”. However, asking a child to “guess” what danger zones are or to estimate 10 feet is not the answer. Schools and parents need to regularly show the students specifically where they need added caution.

Boys ages 5-7 are statistically most likely to be injured. Why? They are shorter and cannot see over obstacles. They are sometimes more aggressive and rush to be the first on or off the bus. Also, with such a tall and long vehicle, there are many opportunities for a child to hide in a place when drivers cannot see them. This commonly occurs when a student drops an item that rolls under the bus, or is distracted.

If you’re student transfers to a new school or is riding the bus for the first time, always ask the school to have a representative review the school and pedestrian safety rules. What you don’t know can hurt you!

For drivers:

Drivers need to understand the blind spots that come with the size of the bus and the inability of exterior mirrors to view everything that is happening around it. Common areas that children can conceal themselves in include the exterior of the bus, beneath the rear window, in the front of the bus, below the windshield and in front of the grille; and anywhere under the bus. Due to the hazard that these areas pose, in the event that the bus starts to move, drivers need to make extra efforts to ensure that no child is in these areas when it is time to depart.

For students:

The area directly surrounding the bus for 10 feet on all sides is called the “Danger Zone”. While in this zone, the risk of being injured is greatest. Students need to minimize the amount of time that they are in the “Danger Zone” by asking an adult for help in the event that they lose an item near the bus, and ensuring that they stay at a safe distance away from the bus unless directed to enter or exit. Students need to realize that drivers are unable to see them when they are at certain spots around or under the bus, and to look out for their own safety instead of relying on the potentially absent attention of others.

Here are some rules that should be included in any effort to reduce students from being injured while walking to or from the bus:

  1. Walk safely to the bus stop and stay well away from the street.
  2. Arrive at the bus stop 5 to 10 minutes before bus time. Rushing at the last minute increases the risk of a pedestrian injury.
  3. When waiting, keep yourself and your belongings out of the road and away from traffic.
  4. Don’t run between parked cars and buses. BE VISIBLE TO OTHER DRIVERS.
  5. Never move towards the bus until it has stopped and the driver opens the door.
  6. Stay 10 feet away from the front or back end of the bus so that the driver can see you.
  7. Wait for the driver to signal you to board the bus.
  8. Before stepping off the curb to board the bus, look left and right to make sure your path to the bus is clear, especially if the bus is stopped away from the curb.
  9. Check that drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves and loose clothing cannot get caught on the bus handrail, door, or the seats.
  10. Use the handrail when entering the bus.
  11. Never push or shove other students.

Additionally, I want to give you some incentive to think about your own children’s safety; especially if you have boys between 5 and 9. One fifth of all children killed in traffic accidents are between the ages of 5 and 9 and were pedestrians (most fatalities were among boys). Also, be aware that the most dangerous times for fatal accidents among young pedestrians is between noon and 8PM at locations other than intersections.

When it comes to intersections, I would ask you to teach your children that a green light does NOT mean it’s safe to cross the street! As adults, we have all seen people run a red light and/or barely stop on red to make a right turn.

The only thing a green light should mean to your young pedestrian is that it’s time to look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for traffic, and cross ONLY if it is safe to do so. Also, don’t follow the crowd when stepping off the curb to cross the street unless you are 100% sure it’s safe to cross. Don’t depend on the crowd or another child; trust your own eyes before stepping off the curb.

Crosswalks are another place that (like green lights) give young pedestrians a false sense of safety. Just because there is a cross walk, or the “Walk Sign” is flashing, is not a guarantee that cars will stop for your child. Please make sure they know this.

Thank you for taking the time to review this important information, and please review these other free resources I have selected for you to keep your kids safe as pedestrians:

Choose Safer Walking and Bicycling Routes

Walkability Checklist in English

Walkability checklist in Spanish

Child Pedestrian Tip Sheet