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The Wheels On the Bus are — finally! — Going Around Town

With the start of school, it's a good time for parents to address bus safety issues with their children, the youngest and teenagers alike.

How many times this summer have you said while you were driving your children around town or on vacation, "Stop fooling around or I'm going to get into an accident?" And then, if you're anything like me, you instantly feel guilty because, God forbid, you actually get into a collision sometime soon after and they feel like they were to blame.

However, the point is that children need to behave while they are riding in moving vehicles — be it a car or a bus — because the driver cannot afford to be distracted. My eyes and, as importantly, my mind needs to stay on the road. There are too many drivers out there who may or may not be practicing safe driving practices. People drive today with music blaring and numerous conversations going on simultaneously with passengers in their car as well as those they are talking to via cell phones. Some people are still texting family and friends, despite more stringent fines applied to those who are caught breaking this important piece of legislation.

Today's drivers have to be alert for the unexpected to happen ... and that calls for the ability to focus attentively on what one is doing when they are behind the wheel so they could react swiftly, if need be.

Imagine then driving a crowded bus filled with loud, screaming and highly excitable children and teens. Then try to picture what it would be like to drive a huge orange vehicle as those same bodies are jumping up and down, throwing things out the windows, calling out names to people outside and physically fighting each other as if they were in a martial arts workshop.

Sometimes when the bus pulled up to pick up or drop off my daughter I've heard a frustrated bus driver yell at a child to "Sit down!" or "Stay in your seat!" or "Be quiet!" I don't blame them. In fact, I feel badly for them. There is only so much disciplining that they could do from their perch at the head of the bus.

One of my children told me about a driver who pulled over on the side of the road so that she could holler at them further. "Good for her!" I said. How else could she continue her route and still transport our town's children safely home?

As parents, we need to instruct our children about what is expected of them this year as they ride to and from school. Appropriate bus behavior is as important as behaving respectfully in the classroom. If we don't allow our children to scream and carry on and swear inside or outside school buildings, why is it all right for them to do so when they are on the bus?

Yes, the buses are crowded and often hot. During our conversations, I would also like to suggest that we parents include a line or two about welcoming fellow students to share the bus seats. Many children are stressed about riding the bus because they fear they won't be able to find a seat.

I've encouraged my children to bring books to read for the longer bus rides. I know the district doesn't like the kids to have electronic devices because they can easily get lost — however, an iPod is a great way to relax and zone out rather than letting off steam in an inappropriate way. Some bus drivers don't mind if the kids enjoy a small snack while they are riding home each day.

As school starts for a new year, I'm going to attempt to install some new routines that will, hopefully, enrich my children's experience. Since the bus is a big part of their daily experience, I would like to make it as pleasant as possible. This begins, though, with a brief but important talk about acceptable bus behaviors. I commend all of Monroe's bus drivers for stepping up to the plate and being willing to do this difficult job. If all of us parents and children work with them, I think we'll have a wonderful and safe school year

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