Tips for improving safe school commuting

School zone safety is everyone’s responsibility – from parents and school officials to children and motorists, ITD advises. Increased awareness of the risks and safety measures will ensure safer commutes.

ITD has compiled safety tips from a variety of sources, including the National Safety Council, and encourages parents or guardians to review them with children.

Riding the bus to school

  • When the bus arrives, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road until you are five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus. Then you can cross the street.
  • Be sure the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
  • Never walk behind the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up first because the driver may not be able to see you.
  • When on the bus, find a seat and sit down. Loud talking or other noise can distract the bus driver and is not allowed.
  • Never put head, arms or hands out of the window.
  • Keep aisles clear—books or bags are tripping hazards and can block the way in an emergency.
  • Before you reach your stop, get ready to leave by getting your books and belongings together.
  • At your stop, wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat, then walk to the front door and exit, using the handrail.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least 10 feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road until you can turn around see the driver.
  • Make sure the bus driver can see you.
  • Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross.
  • When crossing several lanes of traffic, make sure all vehicles have stopped, not just the ones in the closest lane.
  • When the driver signals, walk across the road keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
  • Do not cross the centerline of the road until the driver has signaled that it is safe for you to begin walking.
  • Stay away from the wheels of the bus at all times.

Walking to school

  • Walk to school with a group of kids and always have a responsible adult with you.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk if one is available.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk facing the traffic.
  • The safest place to cross is at a street corner or intersection.
  • Watch for vehicles entering the street at an intersection or from driveways.
  • If you are 10-years-old or younger, you need to cross the street with an adult. You should not cross by yourself.
  • Before you step off the curb to cross the street, stop, look to your left, then to your right and again to the left to see if cars are coming.
  • If a car approaches, make eye contact with the driver to ensure that he or she sees you.
  • Walk; don’t run. This gives time for drivers to see you before you enter the roadway. Running also makes you more likely to fall in the street. Don’t dart out in front of or between parked cars. The driver of the car coming down the street will not be able to see you.
  • Youngsters should always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing. They should continue looking in this manner until they are safely across the street or road.
  • Obey all traffic signals and/or crossing guards. Never cross the street against a "don't walk" light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.
  • Be visible to others. Wear reflective material if walking or biking to school in low-light conditions. If a driver's vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, move out carefully to where drivers can see you and you can see other vehicles.

Riding a bicycle to school

  • Always wear your helmet when riding your bicycle.
  • Make sure that your helmet fits correctly. The helmet should fit low on your forehead so that two fingers fit between it and your eyebrows. Another way to check is to put the helmet on your head and look up. If you can’t see your helmet, it is too far back.
  • To ride safely, you need to know the rules of the road. If you don’t, then you should not ride in traffic or without an adult.
  • Ride on the right side of the road or trail in a single file line in the same direction as other vehicles and come to a complete stop before crossing streets.
  • Wait for a driver’s signal before crossing the street.
  • When you ride your bicycle, you should wear bright colors during the day and right before the sun rises or sets.
  • Riding at night can be dangerous. If you have to ride your bicycle at night, you should ride with an adult. You should have a white light on the front of your bicycle and a red reflector on the back. You also can get lights and reflective materials to put on your shoes, helmet and clothing.
  • Practice makes you more skilled at riding your bicycle. The more skilled you are at riding, the less likely you will be to crash. Practice riding skills in an empty parking lot or a place with no traffic. Practice such things as riding in a straight line, looking over your shoulder, signaling with your hands and starting and stopping.


  • Motorists should be keenly aware of the risks that accompany the reopening of schools as more children use sidewalks and bicycle paths.
  • Anticipate spontaneous movement from children who sometimes are distracted and unaware of their surroundings.
  • Drive with extra care near school zones or other areas where children might be present, such as parks or playgrounds.
  • Obey the posted speed limit and be aware of reduced speed limits near schools and in corridors defined by flashing yellow lights.
  • If dropping off children, deliver them as closely to school as possible. Don’t leave until they are safely on the school grounds.
  • Avoid distractions, especially cell phone use, when transporting children
  • Buses sometimes stop in travel lanes, requiring approaching vehicles to slow or stop.
  • All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
  • The most dangerous area children loading or leaving a school bus is within 10 feet. Allow enough room around the bus for children to walk unhindered.
  • Never pass a stopped school bus on the right.
  • Do not honk your horn, rev your engine or do anything to rush or scare a pedestrian in front of your car, even if you have the legal right-of-way.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Drivers must stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped to pick up or deliver school children if the bus displays flashing red signals. Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is slowing to stop. Drivers should consider the flashing yellow school bus lights as they would a solid yellow traffic signal.
  • On a two-lane road, following and oncoming traffic must stop and remain stopped as long as the school bus displays flashing red lights and/or the stop arm on the drive’s side of the bus is extended.
  • On a highway with two or more lanes of traffic traveling in each direction, oncoming traffic is not required to stop when meeting a school bus. However, motorists still are urged to watch for children crossing traffic lanes while on their way to or from the bus.
  • Drivers also should use caution when traveling through school zones or near routes used by children and should observe school speed limits and the instructions of crossing guards.

Published 8-24-2012