School busAs the start to another school year gets underway, more than 26 million elementary and secondary school students across the United States will begin and end their day on a bus.

School buses are some of the safest vehicles on the road. The greater danger for children lies not in the ride but traveling to and from the bus stop and getting on and off the vehicle.

“In the coming days, both schoolchildren and motorists are adjusting to increased traffic on the roadways, so it’s especially important to make sure precautions are taken at the start of a new school year,” said Rob Webb, Tennessee vice president of operations for Priority Ambulance.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 134 individuals of all ages die in school transportation-related crashes each year. Of school-aged fatalities, 62 percent of children die when hit by a school bus, while only 8 percent of fatalities occurred with school bus passengers.

“Traveling by bus is a great way to transport your children safely to school while reducing traffic congestion and exhaust emissions, but keeping safety tips in mind is essential,” Webb said.

Drivers have a blind spot of approximately 10 feet around a bus, which can be a difficult concept for younger children. Nearly half of school-aged pedestrians involved in school bus accidents are between the ages of 5 and 7.

While preparing kids for the school year with backpacks, notebooks and pencils, make sure they also are equipped with safety information. Priority Ambulance offers the following safety tips:

  • Stay alert. Don’t listen to music, text or play games on a mobile device while walking to the stop.
  • Follow traffic signals and laws. Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Until age 10, children should cross the street with an adult. Never run into the street or cross between parked cars.
  • Leave early. Be at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Early arrival prevents children from running across a street to catch the bus as it pulls away from the stop.
  • Stand back. When the bus approaches, stand at least three big steps away from the curb, and line up away from the street. Avoid the driver’s blind spot.
  • Stand still. Wait until the bus completely stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s OK before entering the bus. Do the same for exiting the bus. Be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don’t get caught in handrails or doors.
  • Never walk behind the bus. Walk where the driver can see the child, and the child can see the driver. Walk at least five big steps in front of the bus.
  • Watch for motorists. Even though motorists are supposed to stop when a bus is making pickups or drop-offs, make sure children look both ways before crossing the street.

Motorists also must prepare for the new school year, according to Webb.

“Be alert for children walking in the street, especially near bus stops,” Webb said. “Drive more slowly and cautiously before and after school hours, and remember: Yellow flashing lights on a school bus indicate the bus is preparing to stop, and red flashing lights mean cars must come to a complete stop on both sides of the street to allow children to cross.”

With attention to these safety rules, both kids and parents can enjoy a safe school year. The first day of classes for Knox County Schools is Monday, Aug. 10. The first day of classes for Blount County is Monday, Aug. 3, and Loudon County begins Friday, Aug. 7.

 About Priority Ambulance:

 Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Priority Ambulance provides the highest level of clinical excellence in emergency and nonemergency medical care to the communities it serves. Throughout its national service area, more than 600 highly trained paramedics, EMTs and telecommunicators staff approximately 100 state-of-the-art ambulances with the latest medical equipment and technology.

Priority Ambulance provides emergency and nonemergency medical transport options to communities in Tennessee, Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Operating as Priority Ambulance, the company serves Knox, Loudon and Blount counties in East Tennessee. Priority Ambulance operates as Kunkel Ambulance in Utica, N.Y.; as Trans Am Ambulance in Olean, N.Y.; as Shoals Ambulance in Alabama; and as Seals Ambulance in the Greater Indianapolis area.