Waiting, entering, sitting down, riding, arriving — traveling by bus can be this easy. And it’s (usually) comfortable and environmentally friendly too. But it can also harbor some hazards, especially for children.
That’s why MobileKids, the traffic safety initiative of Daimler AG, regularly organizes school bus training sessions to make young bus riders fit for the ride to school. This year the Johanniterschule in Heitersheim was awarded one of these training sessions because of the bike song the children had composed themselves — a really catchy tune, if you ask me.
It’s been a while since my own schooldays — but, as we all know, you never stop learning. So I went along with the kids to the training session and once again updated my knowledge about the right way to ride a school bus.
I arrived at the large schoolyard of the Johanniterschule and met the children, who were eagerly waiting for their school bus training session to start. Should they climb into the bus right away, or what? No, the session started right on time at 9:30 a.m. with a theory lesson taught by our school bus trainer. As with so many things in life, even riding a bus has to start with a clear definition of the theoretical basics.
Step 1: What do the signs mean?
Just as in road traffic, posted in a bus are some signs that we should recognize. Where can people with a disability sit? Where are the emergency exits? And of course there’s always “Do not talk to the driver while the bus is in motion!” Lots of the information was new to me too, and the children were fascinated. Our school bus trainer explained not only the individual signs and their meaning but also important rules of behavior.
Crowding, shoving, screaming — people who remember their own school bus days know that in a big group of primary school kids good manners can quickly disappear. Instead, in school bus training sessions the children learn how important it is to be watchful and considerate as they enter and exit the bus and also to sit quietly during the ride. After all, other people are on board too, and they deserve our consideration. Our kids from the Johanniterschule were exemplary participants during the entire theory lesson. They certainly didn’t have to be taught how to cooperate effectively.
After an hour of questions, questions, and more questions, the children were familiar with the basics and now knew in theory how to behave in and around the bus — from the bus stop to the exit point.
Step 2: Get to know the bus!
But of course theory is only half of the story. Next, we left the classroom and went out into the fresh air. It was clear to see that all of us were looking forward to the school bus that was waiting for us and ready to go.
But a bus is more than just a means of transportation — it can also be a source of hazards. We seldom realize how much power a bus has — and that’s why a school bus training session sharpens our awareness of this power. For example, we made the potato test. Neither the children nor I could crush a potato with our hands, but when the bus rolled over the potato it simply flattened it.
Even entering the bus can become dangerous, because when the bus opens its doors it noticeably sinks downward. The school bus trainer demonstrated this situation by putting a piece of wood under the bus and showing how much weight and force are exerted when the bus sinks down. That’s why you should never stick your foot under the school bus. Pieces of wood and potatoes — it sounds funny, but they help to show very vividly what kinds of hazards a bus ride can cause.
Step 3: Into the bus!
After seeing and trying out so many things, all of us were glad to finally enter the bus. Finally we were going to see some action! Here too, we could see why school bus training is so important, because some of our school bus trainer’s instructions were greeted by quizzical looks from the kids. For example, he told them that the popular seat in the middle of the “slide” is not the safest place in the bus.
Why? The answer was clear to see when the bus driver made his first emergency braking. Although the bus was traveling only 30 km/h, the backpack that had previously been placed on the “slide” shot down the aisle as far as the rear exit. Even I was astonished. Of course the whole class screamed and laughed in delight — in fact, the emergency braking was the highlight of the session. At the same time, we realized that it’s very important to hold on tight and safely stow away things like backpacks during the ride — even at low speeds.
Riding the bus safely — the Top 5 rules
The day was filled with lots of tips that were interesting and relevant for me and the children, combined with lots of fun. Here’s a brief summary of the five most important rules:
Rule number 1: Always stay a safe distance away from the bus!
Be careful, not only when the bus is approaching but also when it opens its doors. That’s because the door can hit you in a second if you’re not watching out — so stay a safe distance away from it.
Rule number 2: Let people get out of the bus before you enter!
Of course the bus is usually not empty when you want to enter it. As a general rule, the passengers in the bus should get out first, and after that we can enter.
Rule number 3: Don’t push and shove!
That’s a general rule in daily life, but it’s especially important in and around the bus. Pushing and shoving is not allowed, because if we cause someone to fall when the bus is arriving, or if that someone is standing in the narrow aisle of the bus, the result can be disastrous.
Rule number 4: When you’re in the bus, always hold on tight!
During the school bus training session, the kids saw how much braking power a bus has — even at the lowest speeds. So holding on tight is a must.
Rule number 5: When you’re exiting the bus, watch out for bike riders and drivers!
Dangers can still occur after the bus ride is over, because the traffic along the road is still moving. And bike riders and drivers can sometimes be careless too. So when you get out of the bus, always watch out for the other road users.
15 years of MobileKids
MobileKids, the traffic safety initiative of Daimler, has worked for 15 years to teach children in playful ways how to behave safely in road traffic. Heitersheim was one of the winners of the MobileKids school competition. The other three winning schools, from Tutow, Berlin, and Hagenbach, also received a MobileKids training session in a school bus.
My trip to the idyllic town of Heitersheim was long and hot (I’m not complaining about my sunburn) but successful, because it was a very thrilling and action-packed day for the children. The schoolchildren in Heitersheim have participated in many other competitions this year, but they’ve seldom had as much fun as they did at the MobileKids school bus training session — and they learned so much too! It was an experience they’ll certainly talk about for a long time at the Johanniterschule in Heitersheim.