Kids Headed Back to School? Get Ready With Our Tips
By Kristin Varela
on July 23, 2014
I know I'm not the only parent counting down the days until school starts again. As wonderful as summer is, can we all admit that having a more regimented schedule is a huge relief?
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While we may look forward to some extra peace and quiet when the kids are finally back in school, keeping things peaceful means heeding some basic back-to-school-zone safety tips. Some of these may seem like common sense, but just like kids and multiplication tables, we could all use a little review.
- Don't agree to drive more children than you have proper seating, seat belts and, if needed, child-safety seats for.
- Set rules for proper car behavior up front; kids cannot meet your expectations unless you spell them out clearly.
Driving Through the School Zone
- Create a distraction-free zone: Cellphones, loud music, screaming kiddos, breakfast, makeup touchups and more take our eyes and minds off the road. Research by AAA shows that taking your eyes off the road for just 2 seconds doubles your chances of getting in a crash.
- Obey the (stop) signs: Shockingly, studies show that more than a third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones and neighborhoods. If the sign says "Stop," you need to stop, people! Be aware of pedestrians: This is the time of year when walking and riding bikes to school is fun. According to AAA, pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling school-zone speeds (25 mph) are nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed than those struck by vehicles traveling just 10 mph faster. Young kids on bikes can be erratic while trying to get a feel for their new wheels; the chances of children riding in a straight line are slim to none, so plan for them to swerve into your path — even if they don't.
- Brake for buses, it's the law: According to a survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, on a typical day more than 75,000 vehicles pass stopped school buses. Yikes!
Speaking of buses, here are some safety tips for those of us lucky enough to have access to those awesome big yellow limos and their drivers, who risk life, limb and sanity driving our kids to and from school each and every day.
Before Getting on the Bus
- Allow enough time to get to the bus stop several minutes ahead of time. Children running to catch a bus can result in disaster.
- Coach kids to walk along the sidewalk, if available, and stay on the sidewalk at the bus stop. Yeah, I know it's much more fun to play football in the street, but I'm here to tell you about safety, remember? If a parent or two can be present at the bus stop, kids are much more likely to practice safe behavior. Gathering a couple of neighbors and splitting up the duties each week builds community and keeps kids safe.
Loading the Bus
- Here's where I inject my opinion: Big kids should wait for little kids to get on the bus. I'm not suggesting sixth-graders wait for fifth-graders, but all kindergarteners, first- and second-graders should safely get on the bus before the gangly giants ascend the stairs.
- Pushing is rude and shouldn't be tolerated by anyone, even friends.
- In the non-opinion category, kids should sit down quickly and face the front of the bus. Looking up at the driver so he knows everyone is ready to go is respectful and helps the bus stay on time.
While on the Bus
- Don't block the aisles with backpacks, instruments or even legs. Having a clear path for exiting the bus is important if there's a crash.
- Keep all body parts inside the bus. (Did I even have to say that? Yes, yes, I did.)
- Speak quietly on the bus; the louder one student talks, the louder others have to talk to be heard, and distracting the driver is a horrible idea. It also goes without saying that screaming and horseplay are also distracting to the driver.
- Don't trash the bus. Bus karma will come back to bite anyone who spits in the seat or leaves a bunch of trash for someone else to pick up.
Getting off the Bus
- Students should always cross in front of the bus if they have to cross the street. Visibility from the driver's seat of a school bus is best about 10 feet around the front of the bus, so that's where students should walk.
Students should never pick up something that's dropped in front of, near or under the bus. Always talk to the driver before leaning down to pick something up.
Biggest Rule of All
- Listen to the driver. A bus driver's job is to get kids to school safely. Drivers may be sweet as can be or big ol' curmudgeons, but either way, dissing the driver is the worst safety violation of all — even if you're 15 and know everything there is to know (about everything).
Great! Now that we've covered that, get your kids off to school then come home and enjoy your morning latte in peace.
Asiseeit/Thinkstock and via films/Thinkstock
Editor's note: Some of these tips came from our former sister site, MotherProof.com.
Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin