Send Children Back to School ... Safely
Written by Christina Ward ,
Staff Writer, RedCross.org
5, 2001 — September is back-to-school time for
students all over the country. Amid the excitement of new
teachers, classes and friends, it's easy to forget the
day-to-day hazards that go along with school attendance —
particularly for younger students. Transportation to and from
school, whether on the school bus, by foot or by car, is a
high-risk part of the day commonly overlooked in the hubbub
surrounding a new school year. American Red Cross safety
experts urge parents to set aside some time with their
children to discuss important precautions about school
Some 24 million children travel on buses to and from
schools and school-related activities each year, according to
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Approximately 440,000 public school buses travel more than 4
billion miles, and account for 10 billion student trips each
It is an unfortunate, but unsurprising reality: With so
many students and buses on the road in the mornings and
afternoons throughout the school year, many accidents occur.
NHTSA statistics show that between 1988 and 1998, an average
of 30 students (ages 5 through 19) were killed each year in
school bus-related accidents, and many more were injured.
However, many bus accidents are preventable, safety
specialists say. The majority of these injuries and deaths
were not the result of a bus crash, but occurred when students
were entering and exiting a bus.
"As school begins, we encourage families to develop a
safety plan," said Connie Harvey, health and safety expert at
the American Red Cross. "Make sure to review basic safety
rules for walking, biking or riding to school, and decide what
will be done in case of an emergency."
For Bus Riders
- Line up facing the school bus door, not along the side
of the school bus.
- Don't play in the street while waiting for the school
- Carry your belongings in a backpack or book bag.
- Never reach under a school bus to get anything that has
rolled or fallen underneath.
- After getting off the school bus, move immediately onto
the sidewalk or road shoulder, out of traffic.
- Wait for a signal from the bus driver before you cross
the street. Walk at least 10 steps away from the front of
the bus so that the bus driver can see you.
- Never cross the street behind the school bus.
Young students who walk or ride bicycles to school also
face a range of dangers. Remind children to follow the
For Walkers or Bikers
- Never walk along — always walk with a buddy.
- Pay attention to all traffic signals and instructions
from crossing guards. Never cross the street against the
light, even if there are no cars coming.
- Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
- Walk your bicycle across intersections.
- Wear reflective material to be more visible to street
Anyone who rides in a car to school — or drives, in the
case of older teenagers — needs to be particularly careful.
Most traffic crashes occur close to home.
For Car Passengers and Drivers
- Everyone in the car should wear a seat belt. They lower
the risk of injury in the event of a crash by 45 percent.
- Motor vehicles are the leading cause of death for people
age 15 to 18 years old. Remind your teenager to take extra
precautions if he or she drives to school, or rides with
another teenage driver.
- Make sure babies and young children are in safety seats
at all times during a car ride.
Return to our
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made
possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the
American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of
the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by
generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster,
you may make a secure online
credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP
NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you
may send your
donation to your local Red
Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243,
Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE
(1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red
Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives.