This post was sponsored by bus.com, and all opinions expressed in this post are our own.
In these waning days of summer, we are already thinking ahead to ‘Back to School’ season, and of course one of the most ubiquitous sights of the school year is the big yellow bus. Do you worry about your child taking the bus to school? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a “school bus is the safest vehicle on the road—your child is much safer taking a bus to and from school than traveling by car”. In fact, students are about 70X more likely to arrive at school safely when taking a school bus instead of a car. That is because school buses are specially designed (e.g. bright colors and lights) and intensively regulated to be as safe as possible. In many ways, the greater risk for a child is in approaching and leaving the bus than being on the bus. The same could be said for public and coach buses (rented or commercial).
In addition to school buses, commercial buses are also considered to be one of the most environmentally-sustainable and cost-efficient modes of transportation around. A study conducted on behalf of the American Bus Association Foundation concluded that highway motorcoaches, van pools, and transit buses are some of the greenest travel options around. Being cost and energy-efficient, buses are a great option for group travel (e.g. to and from events) and now services like bus.com have made it even easier to select the right one for your needs.
So while buses are energy-efficient, cost-efficient and generally safe, it is also important to be mindful of a number of things that are important for bus safety, whether it be a school bus or a charter bus. Bus safety rules and guidelines can be summarized within the following categories:
Know who’s driving the bus
Every time we get on a bus, we expect that it is in perfect working order and the driver is licensed and prepared for the ride. For school buses and public transportation, we leave those considerations to school and city administration officials. However, for chartering a bus it is important to do some due diligence in advance. A service like bus.com provides a simple way to feel more confident about charting a bus, as they vet the bus service, and the drivers, beforehand and driver/service ratings give an indication of the reliability of the service. When renting from a private company directly, it would be helpful to ask about driver and bus safety records, review company records from independent sources and of course, keep contact information close at hand in case it is needed to get in touch with them on the day of the trip.
Getting Safely On the Bus
The key to safely boarding a bus is to not be in a rush. This means arriving early at the bus stop (at least 5 mins, if possible), and not to run for or after a bus. It is also important to wait in designated safe zones, away from the curb and to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and for the doors to open. Children should be reminded that running and pushing others can be dangerous near roads, so horseplay is not recommended at bus stops. Those boarding the bus should first wait for anyone disembarking to do so safely. Holding the handrail is recommended to help keep you steady as you board, especially if there is a long line of impatient kids or adults waiting to get on.
Riding the Bus Safely
Most school buses and large coach buses don’t have seat belts and, according to the NHTSA, for good reason. NHTSA has designated school buses to follow the concept of “compartmentalization”, which protects children from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs. However, this requires everyone on the bus to be seated at all times with limited movement, clear aisles and for any large bags to be under seats or on laps. The bus drivers should be able to share any additional safety information specific to the type of bus you (or your child) may be on, so it is important to pay attention to what they have to say. Kids should be reminded that it is safest to open bus windows only halfway, never throw anything out of a bus, and always keep your head and arms inside the bus.
Leaving the Bus Safely
Patience is again the key to staying safe as you leave the bus. It is important for the bus to come to a complete stop and the doors to open fully before disembarking. Perhaps it should go without saying, but the most efficient way is for the passengers in front to get off first without any pushing and shoving. Using handrails again is recommended and you should take the time you need to navigate the steps safely. Children especially should be reminded of the ‘blind spots’ immediately in front of and behind buses, as well as along each side. After disembarking, the goal should be to safely get away from the bus as quickly as possible and always have the driver’s attention (and a signal if possible) before crossing in front of the bus. Some local regulations require an extendable crossing arm be mounted on the front of school buses to keep children out of the blind spot in front of the bus. If crossing the street is required, remember to look both ways as drivers passing the bus will also have a restricted line of sight.
Riding the bus can be fun, economical and safe for travelers of all ages, whether it is the daily commute or a chartered bus for a special event.