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The importance of staying safe on the school bus
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The importance of staying safe on the school bus

By Darryl Hill, Guest Columnist | Originally published in the Daily Memphian on 10/19/2023

Darryl Hill is First Student’s senior vice president of safety and security.

The still-new school year means millions of students boarding a yellow school bus for the first time, or the first time in months. Those first few rides can be daunting for parents and students alike, and while classes are officially in full swing, it is never too late to make sure kids are comfortable and safe going to and from school every day.

That’s why we at First Student love this time of year. Every October we celebrate National School Bus Safety Week, providing a great opportunity for us to share what we know and what we have learned about being safe on the bus.

Students of all ages, experienced and first-time riders, and parents can all benefit from a refresher.

This year, we were delighted to celebrate part of School Bus Safety Week right here in Memphis. First Student is honored to be the transportation provider for the Memphis-Shelby County school system. That’s why we made Memphis a stop on our Safety Dog Bus Tour.

On our tour, we have kids sign a safety pledge — because safety is everyone’s responsibility. We also share these bus safety tips to help students, parents and educators during School Bus Safety Week and all year long:

Before the Bus Stop

  • Arriving about 5 minutes early to the bus stop helps you avoid running to catch the bus and walking with a parent or group is the best way to get there.
  • Even if you are excited to board, stay at least 10 steps away from the bus when waiting and make sure it comes to a complete stop.

Getting On and Off the Bus

  • If you need to cross the street to get on the bus, make sure to wait for a signal from the bus driver before you do.
  • When getting off the bus, always look right!

While on the Bus

  • Always follow the directions of the bus driver and aides on the bus. They are there to support you! These rules make a safe, positive environment for everyone.
  • Always stay in your seat and use your indoor voice. Distracting the bus driver is not good for you or the rest of your classmates.

And for Parents, Families And Guardians

  • Make sure loose articles of clothing or objects are stored in backpacks or secured to avoid loose items being left on the bus or falling on to the ground.
  • Communication is key. Make sure your students have a way to get in contact with you or a trusted adult if something does not go to plan.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are approximately 70 times safer than cars and 10 times safer than walking, and First Student is still constantly striving to make school bus transportation even safer.

Our drivers typically take part in at least 40 hours of rigorous training before driving one of our buses. We work tirelessly to maintain our buses to ensure they are safe on the road. And we are deploying cutting-edge on-board technology, including GPS systems, cameras, our FirstView bus-tracking app for families and driver tablets.

School bus safety also means providing cleaner, healthier rides for students. That is why First Student has been at the forefront of the transition to electrify school bus fleets, with a plan to electrify 30,000 school buses by 2035. This is an exciting transition that will boost safety.

With more than two million miles driven by our electric school buses so far, we feel confident that we will be able to achieve quieter, healthier and safer rides for students across the country.

National School Bus Safety Week gives all of us a chance to refocus on safety and share ways to make riding the bus safer, and fun, for all students. Happy riding!