First Student is urging motorists, students, and parents to take extra precautions on the road and at school bus stops during the winter months. Shown here is a winning entry in SBF's 2019 photo contest from Katrina Falk. - File photo courtesy Katrina Falk

First Student is urging motorists, students, and parents to take extra precautions on the road and at school bus stops during the winter months. Shown here is a winning entry in SBF's 2019 photo contest from Katrina Falk.

File photo courtesy Katrina Falk

With many areas experiencing snow and ice as schools reopen, either from a few weeks following winter break or much longer due to COVID-19, First Student is offering some winter driving safety tips.

The school transportation provider trains and prepares its drivers for driving in adverse conditions, transporting five million students to and from school each day with more than 70% of its routes located in areas that experience snow and ice, according to a news release from First Student.

“Driving safely in winter weather can be a challenge,” said Darryl Hill, First Student senior vice president of safety. “Snow and ice demand careful driving. We urge motorists to join us in keeping students and other drivers safe by remaining alert, using extra caution, and being prepared for the travel troubles that can occur this time of year.”  

Here are the company’s 12 safety tips for drivers, students, and parents:

Drivers

  1. Take your time. Give yourself extra time when the weather is bad. Drivers who give themselves more minutes to get to their destination help ensure a safe and appropriate speed for road conditions.
  2. Be prepared. Make sure the wiper blades, tires, battery, and defroster are in good working condition before inclement weather hits. Keep the vehicle’s gas tank full and check window washer fluid levels.
  3. Remain alert. Pedestrians are more likely to be rushing during cold temperatures and could be hidden by poor visibility or snowbanks. Remain alert for children who may be hidden or standing in or near the street at the bus stop due to mounds of plowed snow.
  4. Drive for conditions. Adjust your driving behavior to the weather conditions. During winter, this often requires slowing down and increasing your following distance. Anticipate that bridges and overpasses may be icy and minimize acceleration and hard braking. 
  5. Watch for school buses. Passing a stopped school bus from behind as it loads or unloads children is illegal in all 50 states. It’s estimated that more than 95,000 drivers break this law every school day, causing close calls and injuries to children. Everyone plays a role in ensuring students get to school safely, so use caution and maintain a safe following distance.

Students and Parents

  1. Be safe. Parents should keep students home from school if they don’t feel well. Before heading to the bus stop, they should take their children’s temperatures and wash their hands. It’s also important to make sure their students stay socially distanced at the bus stop and reinforce that face coverings must stay on during the entire bus ride.
  2. Don’t rush. When roads and sidewalks are slippery, rushing to catch the bus or driving faster to make it to your destination can have disastrous results. Children need extra time to get to the bus stop in cold, windy, or snowy conditions. Encouraging them to leave a few minutes early and take their time can reduce the number of falls on slick pavement.
  3. Bundle up. Students need to keep warm at the bus stop, but they also must still be able to see and hear what’s going on around them. When bundling up your child in the morning, make sure he or she still has an adequate line of sight and can hear traffic and other noises.  
  4. Watch your step. When walking on snow-covered or icy surfaces, watch where you are walking, take shorter, more deliberate steps, or do the “penguin shuffle.”     
  5. Get a grip. Wear footwear appropriate for conditions. Avoid footwear with slick (no-tread) soles when walking on wet surfaces, snow, or ice. 
  6. Be patient. School bus drivers are trained to drive in inclement weather; however, snow and icy roads can slow down even the most experienced driver. Safety is each driver’s top priority and extra time may be needed to get from stop to stop.
  7. Hold on. The seemingly simple task of getting on and off the bus can be taken for granted. Always use the handrails.
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