Saturday, October 25, 2014

Smart Safety: Bus Stop Safety

 I recently heard about SafeStop, an app that aims to help make kids who ride the bus safer. I had a chance to interview Keith Engelbert to learn more, as well as get some great safety tips.

What was the inspiration behind creating SafeStop?
Necessity is the mother of invention and we like to think of SafeStop as the mother of all school bus apps. SafeStop was inspired by the convergence of a number of factors impacting today’s families. First, is the increasing need for security in an uncertain world. Parents want to know where their children are at all times, and keeping them safe to and from school is SchoolWheels Direct’s first and most important priority. Second is the proliferation of wireless devices and the pervasive Internet of Things that puts limitless information in the palms of our hands. SafeStop is the first school bus tracking app developed for a mobile environment. It is easy to use, secure and can be deployed independent of a school districts’ back office routing technology.  We’re very excited about future enhancements that will provide parents and school districts with even more secure, detailed information.

What tips can parents give students for safety at the bus stop?
Back-to-school season is a busy time for parents and children but it is important that parents and guardians sit their children down and talk about safe behaviors in and around the school bus. Here are some important safety tips to discuss with your children.

  • Be on time for your school bus and never run after or next to a bus.
  • If the windows are down on a hot day, keep your head and arms inside the bus.
  • Stay away from the Danger Zones. Areas within 10 feet to the front, back and sides of a bus are considered the most dangerous spots.
  • If you drop something near the bus, never bend down or crawl under the bus to get it – ask your bus driver for help.
  • If you must cross the street, always do so in front of the bus. Make sure the red lights are flashing and walk in front of the crossing gate arm that extends in front of the school bus.
  • Pay attention. Listen and look both ways before stepping off the bus or crossing the street. Don’t let sweatshirt hoods or headphones block your vision or hearing.

How can kids stay safe getting to and from the bus stop?
Parents and community members play a critical role in keeping children safe on their way to and from the bus stop. Awareness is our primary message to parents and motorist this time of year. Drivers haven’t had to share the road with school buses for a few months so they’re not used to seeing the flashing red lights and stop arms swinging out. We need everyone to be aware that when those amber lights come on, the bus is going to stop and there are kids up ahead that may be crossing. SchoolWheels Direct offers the following safety tips for parents and motorists:

Safety Tips for Parents – 
  • If you drop off or pick up your child at school, do not park in a bus only zone.  It may cause a collision and adds unnecessary risk to the safety of kids walking through a danger zone area.
  • Check your child’s clothing and backpack to make sure there are no loose drawstrings or long straps that could get caught in the handrail or bus door.
  • Make sure your child gets to the bus stop on time. The beginning of the school year holds a greater risk of students rushing to make their bus, since many have to get up earlier than they’re used to.

Safety Tips for Motorists –
  • Stop at least 10 feet away from a school bus that has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
  • Vehicles traveling in the same direction as the bus are required to stop when the red lights are flashing. In most states, vehicles moving in the opposite direction are also required to stop, unless a concrete barrier divides the road.
  • Never pass a school bus on the right side, where children enter or exit.
  • Remember that school vehicles must stop at all railroad crossings, whether or not a train is approaching.

What can parents do to encourage their district to implement SafeStop?
SafeStop is now available to school districts, other school bus contractors and directly to parents.The requirements for deployment are minimal in most cases and we encourage interested parents to visit our website and share the link with their school district administrators and transportation directors. Our SchoolWheels Direct team is happy to visit interested school districts and parent groups, and can conduct online demonstrations of the service. Spreading the word about the flexibility and availability of the service is the first step.

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