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Back-to-school transportation safety: How safe is your child’s commute?

With the upcoming school season right around the corner, parents have back-to-school shopping, packing lunches and breaking out backpacks top of mind. But one thing that might not be high on the radar in the whirlwind of preparations is safe school transportation.

Whether you plan on driving your kids, walking with them, having them ride the bus, or allowing them to ride their bike to and from school, follow these tips to help make the daily commute safe.

Driving to school

If you plan on driving your kids to school, you will need to think about seat belts and car seat safety. Any child under 13 years of age should ride in the back seat of the car, without exception. A booster seat should be used for all children until they reach either 12 years of age or the height of 4 feet 9 inches. Be sure your kids always wear their seatbelt across their body, from shoulder to opposite hip in front of their body, even if it is just around the block.

Walking to school

If you plan on having your kids walk to school, there are also many safety considerations. Until your kids are at least 10 years old, they should always have an adult walk with them. One way to make this easier for you as a parent is to form a neighborhood walking group and have the parents take turns walking the kids to school.

“Make sure your kids always walk on the sidewalk with a buddy, and understand to look both ways before crossing a street,” said Laura Bruce Petrey, MD, FACS, trauma surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. If your kids are over 10 years old and walk without an adult, there is a chance they may be approached by a stranger, so teach your kids who is a trusted adult and who is not, as well as what they should do if they are approached by a stranger.

Riding the bus

Taking the bus is another option for sending your kids to school, and there are several points to be followed to make the rides easy and safe. For one, no one should ever go underneath a bus, and always walk your kids to the bus stop in the morning to make sure they get on safely.

“Remind children to stand at least 3 feet away from the curb to avoid injury when waiting for the bus to pull up,” Dr. Petrey said. “Also, if your kids have to cross in front of the bus, teach them to walk several feet in front of the bus, and don’t let them start walking until the bus driver confirms that they see your child.”

Teach your kids about how to safely ride the bus by sitting only two to a seat, staying seated for the entire ride, and only getting up once the bus comes to a complete stop or the driver says it is alright.

Commuting by bike

If riding a bike to school is the mode of transportation you prefer for your kids, there are many things to consider about safety. Like walking to school, kids under 10 years old should be accompanied by an adult and always ride with a buddy.

“Make sure their helmet fits properly and that it is always on when riding,” Dr. Petrey said.

Put reflectors on your child’s bike and have them wear bright clothing so they will be seen easily. Consider getting elbow and knee pads for your kids in addition to helmets for extra protection. Be sure your kids dismount from their bikes and walk across crosswalks or down steep hills to avoid accidents. 

This post was contributed by Jordin Shelley, an intern for the Trauma Research department at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. 

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Back-to-school transportation safety: How safe is your child’s commute?