Riding the school bus can be a new and exciting experience for many children. In most cases, itís the first time children have traveled on their own, away from the watchful eyes of their parents. Thatís good, because it helps kids gain a sense of independence as they learn to act safely and responsibly. To make the trip as safe as possible, learn about school-bus safely ó and teach your children, too.

School buses are safer

than your car

School buses are an extremely safe form of transportation, about 30 times safer than passenger cars. However, accidents do happen. According to a 1996 study the majority of accidents occur outside the bus, where children can be struck by the bus or by motorist illegally passing the bus.

The danger zone

All school buses are surrounded by a ten-foot area known as the danger zone. In this area, it can be difficult for the driver to see, especially small children. The most dangerous parts of the zone are immediately in front of the bus and from in front of the rear wheels back to the rear of the bus. There are numerous safety devices built into school buses. The most effective safety measure, however, is for you to teach your children how to avoid the danger zone.

Let the driver drive

School bus drivers are trained professionals with a very demanding task. The driver must pay attention to constantly changing traffic conditions, the children on the bus, the children entering and exiting the bus at each bus stop, and the schedule the bus is on. Teach your children to behave responsibly on the bus to help make the ride safer.

Give kids a break

In your own vehicle, recognize your responsibility when you approach a stopped school bus: Come to a complete stop, watch for children near the road, and donít pass the bus while itís stopped.

Plan for when youíre

not there

You or a caregiver should be at the bus stop or at home when your child gets off the bus. If thatís not possible, make sure your child knows exactly what to do ó continue straight home, wait for you, call someone, go to a neighborís house, or whatever youíve arranged beforehand. Be sure your children understand to whom they should and shouldnít talk to when they are on their own.

Teach your children well

If your child is new to riding the bus, or if youíre not sure he knows the safety rules discussed in this article, walk him through the steps. Teach him how to get to and from the bus stop as well as on and off the bus; also explain whatís expected of him as he rides the bus.

Waiting for the bus

Be at the bus stop on time.

Stand well away from the curb; wait quietly for the bus.

Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before boarding.

Donít crowd your friends getting on or off the bus; board and exit one at a time.

Never play or stand in the aisles; find a seat and sit down.

Riding on the bus

Stay in your seat

Donít stick anything out the windows

Listen to the bus driver and monitor; follow their directions.

Talk quietly with your friends

Donít throw things in the bus.

Getting on, off

and around the bus

Avoid the danger zone because itís difficult for the driver to see you in this area.

Take 10 giant steps beyond the front bumper of the bus before you turn to cross the street. This lets the driver maintain eye contact with you while you cross.

Look both ways before crossing a street, and wait for driverís signal.

Never cross the street behind the bus.

Keep away from the bus if you drop or forget something.