How to get to school safely

Tips to keep kids safe on the road to education

Published: August 25, 2014 10:00 AM

The new school year is now underway and children are settling into their fall routines. While there is a variety of transportation options for students to travel to school, some are safer than others. Find out which ways are best and tips on how to stay safe no matter what means you use.

  • School bus. Buses are built to be safer than passenger vehicles for avoiding crashes and preventing injuries, and they are the safest model of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. Their color and size make them easily visible, and they are specifically designed to protect children like eggs in a carton—in compartments surrounded by padding. The high seat backs help protect children from an impact. Statistics show that students who ride buses are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive than if they drive themselves or get a ride with friends. Buses are also more than 20 times safer than when children ride with a parent or other adult. (See our tips for how to safely share the road with buses.)
  •  Walk. An ideal situation is for parents to walk their kids to school. That not only allows for proper supervision and family exercise, but it’s better for the environment and parents can actually get some time to talk to their children. Another benefit is that adults are able to teach children about street safety and how to navigate the roads. But before walking, make sure the area is pedestrian friendly, with sidewalks and safe places to cross the street. If one adult cannot accompany children everyday, form a group to walk together or take turns with another parent. Children under 10 should not walk or cross streets by themselves. Be extra wary, as parents dropping off kids can be easily distracted, and there may be inexperienced teen drivers on the road.
  • Bike. If you choose to send your children on a bicycle to school, make sure they are wearing a properly fitted helmet and know how to secure it. It is best to wear bright clothing to enhance visibility. The bike should be well maintained with working brakes and fully inflated tires. Also check that there is a designated place to park the bike at school, so it doesn’t interfere with buses or cars. A chain lock can ensure the bicycle doesn’t ride home with another child.
  • Drive. If there isn’t a bus and walking is not an option, then a parent or adult must drive. This isn’t the ideal option as it causes traffic, creates pollution, and could be dangerous for children crossing. If you must drive, follow the speed limit, never pass a vehicle in a school zone, don’t block the crosswalk, and always stop for buses. Remember, you’re modeling good driving behavior for your child. Be sure the child is appropriately secured. Young kids, typically 4 to 7 years, should be in a forward-facing car seat with a built-in harness. Older school-aged children up to 4’9” should ride in a booster seat, and all children under 13 years should sit in the back seat. Consider parking a few blocks away to reduce the congestion and provide kids with some exercise and fresh air.

Going back to school is exciting, and scary, enough without worrying about transportation. Following these tips and providing proper guidance can help ensure your little ones arrive safely.

For more advice on driving with kids, see our special section. Also, see our booster seat Ratings to find the right seat for driving kids to school.

Liza Barth


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