Your bus is well maintained, and your driver obeys the rules of the road. But as soon as a child dashes off the bus and darts across the street, a serious accident could follow. What can you do to make your bus ministry safer?
Children are most at risk when they’re walking to or from the bus stop, especially if a road crossing is required. To reduce the likelihood of a tragedy, consider arranging the route differently, clearly marking your bus, having adults help children enter and exit the bus, and getting parents involved.
Arranging the bus route so that children won’t have to cross the street helps keep kids out of harm’s way. Planning the route ahead of time also can help you select the safest stops and allow the driver to pay more attention to the road. Once you get a system going, it’s relatively easy to make adjustments as students join or leave your ministry.
Drivers approaching a stopped church bus often aren’t sure whether to stop, slow down, or drive around the bus. By marking your vehicle as one that makes frequent stops involving children, you can help other drivers realize that they should proceed with caution.
Laws for identifying a former school bus as a church vehicle vary significantly by state. In some areas, you may be required to remove the automatic stop warning sign, the word “stop,” and the flashing lights. Although doing so may seem contradictory, there are ways to alert other drivers to use care when your church vehicle stops. For example, you could add words like, CAUTION: CHILDREN EXITING VEHICLE, in bright colors or turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights before allowing children to disembark.As you consider the safety of your bus ministry, ask a local attorney about legal requirements regarding all vehicles you use to transport children—especially buses and 15-passenger vans. Keep in mind that many bus safety laws can apply to vans and other forms of transportation, as well.
It’s also a good idea to have at least one adult escort, other than the driver, who sits at the front of the bus and helps children get on and off the bus safely. Young age, and possible inexperience with a school bus, might make children believe traffic will stop for them. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.
No matter how careful you are, sometimes it’s impossible to stop a child from running out of the bus and across the street. Getting parents involved can help improve safety in such situations.
Encourage parents to be present when children are picked up and dropped off. Doing so provides an extra pair of eyes and can help other cars realize why the vehicle is stopped.
Consider sending a welcoming flyer home with new students who will be riding the bus that describes your plan for transporting children safely. It could also include general information about the bus ministry, how the route works, and why it’s important that parents are present during pick-up and drop-off periods. Knowing that your ministry has a safety plan helps parents understand that you really care about their children.
No transportation ministry ever intends to have an accident, but they happen. With foresight and planning, you can help provide the children in your bus ministry with safer transportation from door to door.
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