When my son was about to start kindergarten, I remember being very worried about the school bus. Although 23 million kids take a big yellow bus to school every year, I was concerned that my little five-year-old would get lost in the shuffle, might get bullied, or might fall out of his seat! After all, in a regular passenger car, he was still in a booster seat, and buses in my area don’t even have seatbelts.
In looking at the facts, it seemed like the school bus was probably the safest way for him to get to school. There are many, many more injuries associated with accidents involving the family car than there are school bus incidents. And school buses offer the ultimate car pool, providing all of the environmental and time-saving benefits of not having 300 cars in the drop-off line! Although buses are a very safe option for your child, there are some things you can do or check into to help ease your mind:
- Remind your child of the safety rules for when he’s on the bus. When the bus is moving, he needs to be sitting in his seat. He should not get up while the bus is moving, try to change seats, or stand on his seat. The back of the seat in front of him acts as a buffer in case the bus stops suddenly; if he’s not seated, he won’t be as protected.
- The first few times your child takes the bus, you’ll probably want to supervise him getting on. If he needs to cross the street, show him how to look both ways to be sure that all of the cars in each direction have stopped, as they must do by law when the yellow or red lights are flashing. Then be sure to cross in front of the bus, never behind it. Make sure that holds onto the hand rail as he climbs on, as the steps are steep.
- Get to be familiar with the bus driver and any regular substitute drivers. If an unfamiliar driver pulls up, double check that your child is getting on the right bus. Also encourage your child to make sure that she’s on the right bus in the afternoons; there have been cases of children getting on the wrong buses, though teachers are usually very alert to this possibility and take precautions against it.
- Talk to your child about appropriate bus behavior. He should talk quietly and avoid screaming and yelling, as these could startle or distract the driver. If he has a problem, he should wait until the bus comes to a stop, then walk up and talk to the driver.
- If your child reports any incidents of bullying on the bus, report this to the bus driver and the principal immediately. Bus bullying should not be tolerated any more than classroom bullying is.
- Before school starts or on the first day, get the telephone number that you should call if the bus is late. This will save you long minutes or even an hour of panic in the case that the bus breaks down or is delayed for some other reason. You can simply call and find out what the problem is as soon as you realize that the bus isn’t on time.
Climbing aboard the big yellow bus for the first time is likely to be exciting for your child, but nerve wracking for you. Take a deep breath and relax: Your baby is growing up!