OPINION: Safety for Kids Outside the School Bus

OPINION: Safety for Kids Outside the School Bus

It’s something that’s always in the back of our minds as parents: safety. How can we keep our kids safe from everything we deem harmful? From when they are babies to the first time they get on the school bus (and beyond), we are reminding them what to do and what not to do. 

With bus routes that have changed in the past two years for my kids — ones that require them to cross the street to board — there is something new to think about: people driving around the bus and hitting them.

In May, an 18-year-old woman hit two children in Willowick after going around the school bus stop. The children sustained minor injuries and were released from the hospital the same day. They were the lucky ones. There are similar news stories from around the U.S. — and in some cases, the kids didn’t survive.  Three siblings from Rochester, Ind., 6-year-old twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, were boarding their school bus on a typical day in October when they were struck and killed as a woman tried to pass their stopped bus.

According to the National Safety Council, nearly two-thirds of school bus-related fatalities of school-age children occur outside of the school bus.

There are pending bills in the Ohio Legislature that address the problem, with suggestions such as “Allow school bus camera image to support failing to stop for bus” and “Enhance penalty for failing to stop for school bus.” However, no bill has passed or moved in the Ohio House or Senate.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides tips for parents and motorists, such as staying alert and slowing down in school zones, as children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic; and watching for the flashing red lights of the school buses and waiting until the red lights turn off, the extended bus arm is withdrawn and the bus starts moving to start driving again. 

In addition, NHTSA advises kids who are waiting at the bus stop to stand three giant steps from the curb; to cross the street in front of the bus; wait for the bus driver to make eye contact with them before crossing; and if they drop something near the bus, to tell the bus driver right away before picking up the item. 

While I can’t control the other drivers — or even the bus driver — regarding what they should or should not do, I can inform my kids to stay alert. I also can remind as many people as possible that, while it still feels and looks like summer outside, schools are in session — watch out for kids waiting at bus stops.

About the author

Angela Gartner is the editor at Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. She previously served as editor for family and general interest magazines in the region. As a journalist, her features and columns have appeared in newspapers and other publications including The News-Herald, Sun Newspapers as well as the Chicago Tribune. She grew up in Northeast Ohio and is a mom of two boys. The whole family is busy each weekend with sports and finding new happenings around the region. She loves reading books, being a board member at the Cleveland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and taking the family dog, a Scottish Terrier named Jagger, on his walks.

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