5 Things You Should Know: School Transportation Safety

Is walking, carpooling or riding the bus the best option for your family?
Is walking, carpooling or riding the bus the best option for your family?
TLC

There are a number of options for getting kids to school, and there are pros and cons to each. Parents might also use different methods for different times of the year -- after all, even though a kid might be more than happy to walk to school in sunny warm weather, they're probably less inclined to undertake that time-honored trek -- uphill both ways, in the snow, with no shoes -- you know the story.

Here's a few tips aimed at unraveling the transportation experience. Check them out and decide what route will work best for you and your little ones.

#1 - School Bussing

In lots of school districts kids are bussed, and while this is usually the safest way to get to and from school, a few precautions can make it even more so. Kids shouldn't cut it too close when they're headed for the bus stop -- the goal is to be there in plenty of time and limit any goofing off.

The bus driver is the boss, so whether they're giving a signal on when it's safe to cross or some other instructions, they must be obeyed. Kids need to stay out of the bus driver's blind spots and walk where they can be seen. They should also be taught to always cross carefully, never darting out from between parked cars or expecting other vehicles to stop for them.

#2 - Carpooling

There are a number of benefits to carpooling -- it helps decrease traffic congestion, it helps cut down on emissions, and perhaps most noticeably: it decreases the amount of cars jockeying for space in the pick-up and drop-off lanes. This might not sound like a big deal, but those are prime accident areas, both between vehicles and between vehicles and pedestrians.

Don't let the kids distract you while you're driving and keep close tabs on seatbelts and windows. When it comes time to drop them off or pick them up, use extreme caution and follow all the school's guidelines to decrease the chances you'll be one of those involved in an accident.

#3 - Walking

Kids can really get a kick out of walking to school. Walking with friends or siblings gives them a chance to socialize, and the journey can make them feel independent and self-reliant. Plus, it's good exercise and has a number of positive health benefits.

But there are some rules kids need to follow to make sure their trip goes smooth. For example, all traffic laws must be obeyed. Kids should always pause at a curb and look left-right-left before crossing, use sidewalks and crosswalks where possible, listen to crossing guard's directions and give cars the right of way.

If there's no sidewalk, it can be a good idea to walk facing traffic -- then if a car is coming children can clearly see that they need to get out of the way. Sometimes drivers have trouble spotting kids -- they're usually small, after all -- so teach your children to use caution and never assume a car will see them and be able to stop in time if the need should arise.

#4 - Biking

Biking is another option energetic kids can enjoy. But like walking, children should be warned to follow traffic laws and use caution when cars are around. Bicycle hand signals are important for letting others on the road know what you're planning, and light-colored bright or reflective clothing is a good idea.

The importance of a helmet can't be stressed enough. Kids who're concerned about helmet hair will have to take another route because helmets are an absolute necessity. Make sure the helmet fits snuggly and is appropriately adjusted. Also, it's not enough to just plunk it on -- be sure it's buckled at all times. If a helmet does go through a bad crash it should be replaced -- damage may not be visible but the structure could be weakened.

Children need to keep an eye out for instances of sketchy terrain, like potholes or cracked pavement, and if a bike lane is available they should use it. If not, they need to stay as far out of traffic as they possibly can -- but still going with the flow of traffic in their direction.

#5 - Teen Driving

There's nothing like the terror of watching a teen take off solo behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Of course -- they know every last thing there is to know about driving, but chances are good they'll revise that early high opinion of themselves when they look back in a few years.

That being said, there are a couple of pointers you can try to drive home if your teenager's in a listening sort of mood. Above all, a seatbelt is paramount. Equivalent to wearing a helmet while biking, it is key to impress on them the importance of wearing their seatbelt at all times.

Another teenage foible is the tendency to text, eat, talk on the phone, apply make-up, etc. etc. while they're driving. We might all be guilty of this from time to time, but teens should be encouraged not to indulge in bad habits. Another big no-no is speeding. It really doesn't make that big of a difference in terms of time saved, especially compared to the huge difference it makes in terms of impact speeds.