Idaho Transportation

Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
Fax: 208.334.8563

School doors swing open;
children, motorists urged to be vigilant

Bicycles that have served as source of recreation for youngsters this summer return to a more utilitarian purpose this time of year – providing transportation to and from school for children throughout Idaho.

Those who don’t peddle two-wheelers to school usually walk, board buses or catch rides in private vehicles.

Regardless of the mode of travel, the annual pilgrimage back to school evokes warnings of extra caution. Motorists need to be especially wary of preoccupied children enroute to school or home, and school-age children need to be aware of the traffic flowing alongside home-to-school routes.

The Idaho Transportation Department joins the Idaho Department of Education, school districts and parent organizations throughout the state in urging motorists to watch for children crossing streets and roads, and reminds drivers to observe traffic laws related to school buses.

“Until about age 10, most kids haven’t developed the skills to safely cope with traffic,” said Josephine O’Connor of ITD’s Office of Traffic and Highway Safety. “They typically act on impulse, they can’t judge car speed very well, and they assume that if they see you in a car, you can see them.”

Children mistakenly believe that cars can stop instantly for them, O’Connor added.

In Idaho, 57 kids between the ages of 4 and 14 were involved in pedestrian-car crashes during 2003. More than one quarter (26 percent) of pedestrians killed were in that same age group.

Motorists must stop when approaching a school bus that is displaying flashing signals while stopped to pick up or drop off children. Vehicles must remain stopped until all children are clear of the roadway and the bus moves again.

On a two-lane road, both following and oncoming traffic must stop and remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing and/or the stop arm on the left 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.

For children who ride school buses
Parents and teachers should encourage children who ride school buses to observe the following guidelines, provided by the National Safety Council, to ensure their safety:

  • When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness. Do not stray onto streets, alleys or private property.

  • Line up away from the street or road as the school bus approaches. Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before stepping onto the roadway.

  • Use the hand rail when stepping onto the bus.

  • 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 bus 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 and see the driver. Make sure that the driver can see you. Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross. 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 rear wheels of the wheels at all times.

School bus transportation is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every year, the nation’s 450,000 public school buses travel more than 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. Students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than in cars. The fatality rate for school buses is 0.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), compared to 1.5 per 100 million VMT for cars.

For children who walk or bicycle to school
The National Safety Council also suggests that parents review with their children the correct way to cross the street.

  • Adults should walk or bike with their children to school the weekend before classes resume to help determine the safest travel route. Set a good example by using crosswalks and wearing a helmet when riding a bike.

  • 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.

  • If students' vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, they should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles – then stop, and look left-right-left again.

  • Help kids understand basic traffic rules that apply to them when they ride a bicycle. Review hand signals for stopping and turning.

  • Make certain your child wears a bike helmet. According to the transportation department, kids ages 4-19 make up the majority of bicyclists involved in collisions in Idaho, and a helmet is the most effective way to prevent head injuries.

  • Kids say they would wear a helmet if parents made it a rule, according to a recent study.

Safety tips to share with your kids

  • Obey all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard – never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.

  • Walk your bike through intersections.

  • Walk with a buddy.

  • Wear reflective material ... it makes you more visible to traffic.

For more safety tips, visit: