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Editorial

Around Our Town...Safety


Safe Kids of Central Wyoming explains school bus safety features to parents


08/01/2005 - Casper — As the new school year approaches, Safe Kids of Central Wyoming reminds parents that school buses are eight times safer than other vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of crash-related fatalities on school buses is 0.2 per million vehicle miles traveled, compared to 1.5 for cars.

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"School buses are, by far, the safest way for kids of all ages to get to and from school," says Ginny Garner, Safe Kids of Central Wyoming coordinator. "School buses are designed with safety features no other vehicles have. The padded, high-backed seats on school buses are close together to create protective compartments, like egg cartons." Children are not likely to be ejected from a school bus in a crash if they are seated properly — upright and facing forward.

To parents who ask why most school buses do not have seat belts, Garner says, "The purpose of seat belts is to prevent ejection, which is usually fatal and almost always catastrophic. There is not a significant risk of ejection from a large school bus."

In a 2002 report on school bus safety, NHTSA found that seat belts on large buses "appear to have little, if any, benefit in reducing serious-to-fatal injuries in severe frontal crashes." Small school buses (under 10,000 pounds) are equipped with lap belts as well as compartmental seating and are especially useful for preschool children who ride in car seats.

"More children are killed and injured crossing the street at bus stops than riding on a school bus," says Garner. "Teach your children about the 10-foot danger zone around the school bus, where the driver can't see children on the ground." Young children should take eight giant steps away from the bus to be sure the bus driver can see them. Older kids who must cross the street in front of the bus should look to the bus driver for an "OK" sign before crossing.

Safe Kids of Central Wyoming also reminds drivers to obey state laws that prohibit passing a stopped school bus or approaching within a certain distance.

"School buses are special vehicles — in any other vehicle, it is essential that every passenger and the driver be buckled up all the time when the vehicle is moving," says Garner. "Kids need to be in a car seat or booster seat until they are approximately 8 years old and 5 feet tall, and they're 37 percent safer in the back seat than in front."

The NHTSA 2002 report is available at www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov. For more information about child passenger safety in school buses and private vehicles, visit www.safekids.org.

Safe Kids of Central Wyoming works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. Safe Kids of Central Wyoming is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids of Central Wyoming was founded in 1996 and is led by the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation.

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