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Children, adults share bus safety responsibilities

By Steven Nalley
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Both children and adults must follow safety rules to protect children from the dangers of riding, entering and exiting school buses.

Karen Benson is an area child and family development agent based in Neshoba County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. She said children who move throughout the bus while it is moving risk not only falling, but also distracting the driver.

“It's OK to talk on the bus and enjoy being on the bus, but under no circumstances should students stand up and walk on the bus,” Benson said. “They have to remain in their seats, they have to keep their hands to themselves, and they need to be a good friend and neighbor.”

Benson also said children should have assigned seats on the bus so that bus drivers can quickly determine which children are absent each day.

“It's very helpful when children enter the bus if they know right where to go, and anytime you establish a routine with children, it helps them follow the rules,” Benson said. “If the bus has to stop for an emergency or the children have to change buses for any reason, assigned seats let the bus driver quickly know which children are present and which children were not riding the bus that day. That cuts down on any confusion.”

Bettye Wadsworth, Extension area child development specialist based in Jackson County, said children entering and exiting the bus should stay away from the dangerous area behind the bus and avoid such common mistakes as going back into the bus's path for lunch bags dropped in the street.

“Children should board a bus one child at a time, and they should look before stepping off the bus to make sure that no cars are passing on the shoulder on the right side,” Wadsworth said. “Crossing the street, children should take five giant steps out from the front of the bus until they can see the driver's face.

“Wait for the driver to signal that it's safe to cross, because the driver will be using the bus's mirrors to watch for traffic,” Wadsworth continued. “Look left, right and left again when coming to the edge of the bus to make certain that traffic is stopped, and then keep watching while crossing.”

If drivers near a bus disregard safety, the children are in danger even if they are following the rules. For example, a speeding vehicle trying to pass several cars stopped behind a bus can injure children even if they are cautious about crossing the street.

Drivers near school buses should watch the buses' lights and stop signs closely, preparing to put the car in park if the stop sign activates. Benson warned drivers not to pass a bus that is slowing down.

“It may be ready to stop, and it may be unloading,” Benson said. “By the time the bus stops and the children get off, if you try to pass that bus, you may be cutting off those children.”

Wadsworth said bus drivers should be well-trained and keep an eye on all mirrors and traffic. They should quickly get to know all the children on their route and report disruptive children to school authorities.

“They need to be aware of children who tend to be pranksters or who are overly energetic,” Wadsworth said. “Explain to the child that there are consequences for misbehaving on the bus, and that it can lead to dangers for everyone.”

Benson said bus drivers and bus monitors can attend child-care classes to boost their communication skills with passengers, especially preschoolers, who respond well to such incentives as a special seat for the best-behaved child. However, most schools have a no-tolerance policy for students beginning in elementary school, which prohibits disruptive passengers from riding the bus.

“I think there has to be a good understanding between the parent and the child that the child needs to behave on the bus because of safety issues,” Benson said.

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Released: July 3, 2008
Contact: Karen Benson, (601) 656-4011