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School bus safety tips from Consumer Reports

To wrap up 2010 National School Bus Safety Week, here’s some information from Consumer Reports.

  • Each year about 474,000 school buses hit the road transporting over 25 million children to and from school. While those big yellow buses are one of the safest forms of transportation, it is still important for motorists to be extra vigilant when sharing the road. Each year approximately six children die as passengers in school buses, but pedestrians account for a higher number of fatalities. Many of those incidents occur when children are boarding or leaving the bus, or when motorists illegally pass a stopped school bus.
  • Putting seat belts on school buses is another way to reduce fatalities.

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, sent a recent letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) supporting their proposed rulemaking to add seat belts to new motorcoaches, but was “disappointed” that NHTSA didn’t include school buses in the rule.

NHTSA estimates that two fatalities and 1,900 injuries could be prevented if every child wore a seat belt. Consumers Union feels school buses should be included in the motorcoach definition, “especially since school buses often perform the same services as intercity, tour, and commuter bus services when transporting children to and from extracurricular activities.”

Further, Consumers Union added: “It is difficult to understand why adults and children riding an intercity motorcoach should enjoy the protection of lap/shoulder belts, while young children traveling on a school bus should not.” The classic school bus was not designed for highway use, as it often the case when transporting students for extracurricular activities, such as field trips and sports events. Consumers Union feels that “if school buses continue to represent the main means of transportation to and from school-related activities, their design should be altered to accommodate such use.”

While the discussion continues over school bus improvements, to help keep children safe in and around buses now, NHTSA offers these suggestions:

  • Supervise children to make sure they get to the bus stop on time.
  • Make sure they wait on the curb away from the road and avoid rough play.
  • Have the child stand back several feet from the edge of the road until the bus comes to a complete stop.
  • Teach your child to ask the driver for help if he/she drops something near the bus. A driver cannot see a child who may bend down to pick something up. Have your child use a backpack or bag to keep loose items contained.
  • Make sure clothing and backpacks have no loose drawstrings or long straps that may get caught in the handrail or bus door.
  • Encourage safe school bus loading and unloading.
  • If you think a bus stop is in a dangerous place, talk with your school or transportation office about changing the location.

For more on child safety, see our kids and car safety guide.

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