Back to school safety isn’t child’s play

  • Published
  • By Ron Davis
  • 82nd Training Wing Safety Office
Help keep your children safe from unintentional injury by teaching them safe ways to travel to and from school.

Pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional deaths among children ages 5 to 14, and for 23 million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. The greatest risk is not riding the bus, but approaching or leaving the bus.

The back-to-school season provides a great opportunity to teach kids common sense safety behavior

Walking to School

Choose the safest route and walk it with your children at least once. Look for the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. Try to choose routes where school safety patrols will be present. Check with your school administrators if you're not sure. Children under 10 should walk with an adult or older child every day because they do not have the necessary maturity or skills to judge the speed or distance of oncoming traffic. Also, their peripheral vision is one-third less than that of adults.

Teach children to obey all traffic signals and markings. Children should be taught the meaning of all traffic markers, for example, a flashing "walk" sign is not an automatic "go" signal. Make sure children look to the left, to the right and to the left again for moving vehicles before crossing the street.

Teach children not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs. Darting into the street accounts for 50 to 70 percent of pedestrian injuries among children 9 and under. Because drivers have a more difficult time seeing pedestrians, warn children to be extra alert in bad weather.

Riding the bus

Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps 6 feet away from the curb, and line up away from the street. Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says that it's okay before stepping onto the bus.

If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps, 10 feet, ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver. Use the handrails when exiting the bus to avoid falls.

When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don't get caught in the handrails or doors. Never walk behind the bus. Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus. If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.


When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school. When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking about getting there safely. Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.

Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops, be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic. Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Learn the "flashing signal light system" that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions.

Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.

Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.