An estimated 25 million kids ride a school bus each day. As one of the most regulated vehicles on the road, school buses have been deemed safer than walking or riding in the family car. Still, accidents can happen. Some 17,000 children are treated annually for injuries related to riding the school bus. Keeping kids safe when they approach, ride, and exit a school bus is the responsibility of riders, parents, and motorists alike. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the laws in your jurisdiction and communicate with your kids about safe bus behavior before the school year starts. And in the meantime, check out our top safety tips for school bus safety.

Know the laws in your state

All 50 states have laws on the books protecting children when they’re getting on or off a school bus. It’s illegal for a motorist to pass a stopped school bus when it’s picking up or dropping off passengers. But many continue to do so anyway. So children should be appropriately cautioned and reminded to stay vigilant at all times.

  • Yellow flashing lights mean slow down and be ready to stop. When you see yellow flashing lights, they usually indicate a bus is about to stop to load or unload children.
  • When you see red flashing lights and extended stop arms, it means the bus has stopped and kids will be getting on or off the bus. You must wait for the lights to stop flashing and the bus to start moving before you can proceed.

Teach your kids good bus stop etiquette

Following a handful of rules as you get on and off a bus can help keep your child safe.

  • Arrive at least 5 minutes early to a bus stop to avoid having to run to catch a bus as it’s pulling away from the curb, which can be dangerous.
  • Wait for the bus at least 6 feet away from the curb, if possible.
  • Don’t horse around, roughhouse, or run while waiting for the bus.
  • Wait until the bus has made a complete stop and opened its doors before approaching.
  • Use handrails while boarding and try to find a seat immediately.
  • Remain visible at all times. Never walk behind a school bus! Instead, cross a minimum of 10 feet in front of a school bus and make eye contact with the driver beforehand so they can see you.
  • Avoid the rear wheels at all times.

Ensure your kids practice good bus rider behavior

  • If passenger lap and shoulder belts are available on board, always use them (some states, though not all, require them).
  • Don’t disrupt or distract the bus driver with loud noises, yelling, or horseplay.
  • Always stay in your seat.
  • Keep all body parts safely inside the bus (don’t hang them out a window).
  • Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting up.

It’s important to do all you can to keep kids and drivers safe at the bus stop. Slow down, share the road, and pay attention to your surroundings at all times.

Safe and smart

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.