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Tips to help kids stay safe while walking, taking bus to school

Monday - 8/25/2014, 5:36am  ET

WALKSCHOOL.jpg
Kids heading to school -- and drivers -- need to learn the rules, especially early in the school year. (Thinkstock)
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Summer is over for many kids in Maryland, but most in Virginia won't go back to class until after Labor Day. Should the school year start after Labor Day or is today fine with you? Post a comment in this story, comment on WTOP's Facebook Page or use #WTOP on Twitter.

WASHINGTON -- More students are returning to school in D.C. in Maryland Monday and Tuesday. That means more yellow buses on the road, and more children walking to class at the height of the morning commute.

Local jurisdictions all have rules for driving near buses and in school zones, aimed at getting kids to and from school as safely as possible.

But safety experts that say as children transition from vacation to school, drivers need to be extra-alert.

"At the start of the school season, kids are excited and they are likely to do something unexpected," says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.

That could mean darting across the middle of the street and skipping the crosswalk. Carr says that's where most pedestrian accidents occur.

Many of those accidents involve distracted walkers as well. Carr says she sees adults doing it all the time -- walking along a street, text messaging or wearing headphones, and totally oblivious to their surroundings.

She says grownups are setting a bad example for children, and should teach them to cross at a crosswalk, watch the traffic, look out for distracted drivers and never be a distracted walker.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a school bus remains the safest way for students to get to school. It says four school-age children are killed each year while riding on a school bus, while 75 kids die while walking to or from school and 21 are killed while making the trip on a bike.

By contrast, nearly 500 students lose their lives each year in passenger car crashes during school travel hours.

The NHTSA offers the following recommendations for parents and kids:

  • Parents should teach children to stand at least 6 feet from an approaching school bus while waiting at a bus stop.
  • Children should always cross the street in front of the bus when getting off, making sure they can be seen by the driver.
  • Parents should walk with their children to the bus stop and wait with them until they get on the school bus.
  • Children should be reminded to go directly to their seats on the bus and sit down facing forward.
  • Drivers and parents should be alert for late-arriving kids. Many children arriving late for the school bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.

See a list of the D.C.-area's school start dates on WTOP.com.

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