Back to school vehicle safety tips

9 back to school driving safety reminders for emergency vehicle operators


When my son started 4-year-old kindergarten, I could barely believe he was old enough to go to school five days a week. Now he is about to start driving and I have the same disbelief.

Lots of kids get to school through a combination of riding the bus, being dropped off by a parent or guardian or — when the weather is nice — walking or biking to school. Here are some tips for emergency vehicle drivers to prevent accidents or injury to children going to or from school:

1. Avoid the school. When responding emergently, avoid routes that pass directly by a school. My local department does not allow red lights and siren use on the four roads bordering the elementary school closest to our station.

Teach parents and guardians to wait at the bus stop until their child has safely boarded the bus (Image/Greg Friese)
Teach parents and guardians to wait at the bus stop until their child has safely boarded the bus (Image/Greg Friese)

2. No blink back-ups. Avoid any situation – with a POV or emergency vehicle – that requires backing up. If kids are around and you need to back up, always use a spotter.

3. Keep your distance. Stop far enough away from a school bus loading or unloading kids. I count the kids as they get off the bus and don't proceed until I have counted to confirm that each kid is off the roadway.

4. Safety education. During safety presentations, encourage parents/guardians to wait with their child at the bus stop. For younger children, wait with them at the school bus to assure that they stay out of traffic until the school bus arrives and that they safely get onto the bus. At the end of the school day, wait at the bus stop for younger children to walk them home.

5. Help alert other drivers. If you are waiting for a bus to load or unload, turn on your hazard flashers to help alert other drivers. Those drivers may need the additional warning.

6. Always encourage safety behaviors. Use formal and informal interactions with children to remind them about the importance of seatbelt use and wearing a properly fitting helmet for biking and skating.

7. Teach basic traffic safety. Make sure the children you know understand basic traffic safety laws and principles like:

  • Using the crosswalk and following crosswalk signals. 
  • Looking both ways for traffic. We look left, right, and left again before crossing. 
  • Always use a sidewalk if it is available. 
  • If a sidewalk is not available, walk against traffic and bike with traffic while staying as far to the side as possible.

8. Role model distraction-free driving. Don't talk or text on your phone while driving, especially with kids in the car or while driving in areas with lots of children.

9. Role model safe driving. Finally, and most importantly, be a role model and demonstrate important traffic safety behaviors – reduce your speed to at or below the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, yield to pedestrians and obey school speed zones.

Submit your traffic and vehicle safety tips to prevent accidents and injury to children coming or going from school in the comments area. Be safe!

Read Next: School resource medic: A new role for EMS as kids go back to school

This article, originally published September 8, 2009, has been updated.

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