Local schools educate children about bus safety

SAN BENITO — Why is it important to sit properly on the bus?

Why is it important not to distract your bus driver?

These are some of the things children are learning this week.

Every year during National Bus Safety Week, the San Benito school district hosts several presentations about bus safety at every elementary school.

Rather than reading a list of rules, the district’s goal is to teach the students about bus safety with a different approach.

The presentations include a short video, educational activities and show-and-tell demonstrations.

“I feel that students are more engaged and are more likely to learn from the experience if they actually see it,” said San Benito CISD Transportation Director Erica Flores. “So, it’s very beneficial because they get to see the dangers that are out there and the things that jeopardize their safety versus just reading a bunch of rules to them.”

During the presentation, students learned that buses are extremely heavy. They were amazed to hear that each bus weighs about 30,000 pounds.

Additionally, students were shown the dangers of not sitting properly in the bus and taught why it’s extremely important not to distract their bus drivers.

After the presentation, students were lined up and led outside to learn about the dos and don’ts of getting on and off the bus.

There’s a 10-foot danger zone around the bus where the bus driver has less visibility.

Flores said one of the most common things that the district sees is the students getting on and off the bus with a lot of items in their hands, such as projects and lunch boxes.

A lot of the times, students are so excited to get on and off the school bus that they tend to drop their belongings and naturally want to turn around and retrieve them.

So, Flores explained to the students that it is dangerous to pick up their belongings that they drop near the bus.

She told them the safest thing to do is to tell the bus driver they dropped something so they can securely retrieve their items.

“We try to teach them to be aware of the danger zone and not to retrieve what they dropped,” Flores said. “This is why it’s very important for us to explain to the students that they need to be cautious and stand away from the bus at a safe distance.”

One student said she thinks the students are going to follow the rules more now after seeing the presentation.

“I thought the presentation was amazing because some kids didn’t know everything we learned, but they’re learning,” said fifth grade La Encantada Elementary School student Eliseth Beltran.

Another fifth grader, Miriam Hernandez, said she has been riding the bus since she was in pre-kindergarten.

She said students follow the rules most of the time.

However, when she notices students are not following the rules, she tells them they need to be quiet and sit down.

In addition to the safety presentations held this week, local law enforcement drove behind several buses throughout their routes and issued citations to motorists who passed a school bus while they were dropping off students.

Flores said people need to treat the stop signs on school buses the same way they treat the ones on the street.

“We still have motorists that do not abide by the law and pass the buses that have their bus signs engaged,” Flores said. “That is very dangerous because at any given moment, our students could be crossing the street and there’s a potential of them running over our students.”

When buses flash their amber “yellow” lights, this means motorists need to slow down and prepare to stop because the bus is going to display their stop sign and drop off students.

“Student safety is a priority for the school district and should be a priority for the community as well,” Flores said. “We all have a responsibility in keeping our children safe.”

Following the rules

• Observe same conduct as in the classroom.

• Be courteous. Respect the bus driver and all students.

• Keep the bus clean. Do not eat or drink on the bus.

• Drugs, alcohol and tobacco are not allowed.

• Do not destroy property or handle emergency equipment.

• Do not stand. Sit down and face forward at all times while bus is moving.

• Keep head, hands and feet inside the bus.

• No fighting. Any type of violence is not allowed.

• Do not distract the driver. No loud music, shouting or throwing items.