The yellow school bus is a familiar sight across the landscape of America. Every school day, approximately 23.5 million children all across the country board about 450,000 buses to go to school. 

While these trips may cause parents of young children some anxiety, their nervousness usually abates as they learn that the school bus is a safe means of transportation. Indeed, school buses are said to be about seven times safer than passenger cars or light trucks. 

Still, while the risk of a school-bus accident is minimal, schools and parents must be vigilant about school bus safety. 

Keep safety first.

In particular, schools and parents need to be especially aware of the risks of accidents with children in school-bus loading zones where they board and leave the bus, since these are the areas where most incidents occur. 

To this end, school districts must ensure that the bus drivers are responsible and well-trained. Bus drivers are required to receive training in applicable laws, safety precautions, and first aid, as well as undergo regular drug and alcohol testing. 

You may be surprised to learn that most large school buses do not have seat belts. School bus safety experts at the federal level have decided not to require seat belts on large school buses. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded after considerable research that the best way to provide crash protection to children on school buses is by providing closely spaced seats that have thickly padded seat backs. 

At the same time, small school buses must be equipped with lap or lap/shoulder belts for all seats. 

Follow the rules.

Parents can also promote school-bus safety by reviewing the following rules with their children: 
• Put all your belongings in a backpack so you will not drop things on the way or at the bus stop. 
• Leave enough time in the morning (and at dismissal) to get to the bus stop without running.
• Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, stay out of the street.
• While at the bus stop, stand away from the road, especially as the bus approaches. Do not
   move to approach the bus until it stops completely.
• Go directly to your seat and remain seated until the bus stops and you are ready to get off.
• Behave! Do not put your hands or head out of the window. 
• Never throw things in the bus or out of the window. 
• Do not distract the bus driver by yelling or talking loudly. 
• Move away from the bus right after you get off, making sure to stay away from the front or
   side of the bus. 
• Wait for the bus driver to direct you to cross the street and make sure to always cross in
   front of the bus.
• Do not go back to pick up dropped items until the bus driver has directed you to or the
   bus has left. 
• Avoid carrying glass items on the bus.

Dr. Kenneth Shore, a psychologist, can be reached at