(WHNT) – Heading back to school soon? The American Red Cross Tennessee Region has some tips to help students, parents, and community members stay safe.

School Bus Safety

  • Bus riders should get to their stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive
  • Cross the street at the corner, obey traffic signals and stay in the crosswalk
  • Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars
  • Students to board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or another staff member has told them to get on
  • Students should board their bus only, not an alternate one (unless otherwise directed by the school)
  • Students should always stay in clear view

Driving, Biking, or Walking to School

  • Always wear a seat belt; younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (the Red Cross said this typically happens for children 8-12 years old and over 4′ 9″ tall); children should also ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old
  • Parents of teenagers driving to school should mandate seat belts for their teens; drivers should also refrain from texting, using their cell phone, eating or drinking while driving
  • Bikers should always wear a helmet and ride on the right with traffic (biking in the same direction as vehicles)
  • Walkers should cross the street at intersections, and use routes where the school has placed crossing guards; parents should walk young children to school, along with those taking new routes or attending new schools – at least for the first week to make sure they know how to get to school safely
  • Walkers should be reminded not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know; parents should arrange for walkers to walk to school with a friend or classmate

Slow Down, Prepare to Stop

  • Drive slowly and cautiously, especially in residential areas and school zones; children will be walking or biking in the area
  • Remember – flashing yellow lights on a school bus mean the bus is about to stop, so slow down and prepare to stop; flashing red lights and an extended stop sign mean the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions are required to stop and remain stopped until the lights go off, the stop sign retracts and the bus is moving. In Tennessee, the only scenario where this rule doesn’t apply is if a bus stops on a road with four or more lanes and the road is divided by a barrier or unpaved area; drivers approaching the bus from an oncoming direction are not required to stop, but should use caution. Fines for passing a stopped school bus range from $250-$999 in Tennessee.

Prepare for Emergencies

  • Know the emergency plan for your child’s school in case a disaster or unforeseen event occurs
  • Create a family emergency plan so everyone knows who to contact and where to go if a disaster happens while children are at school and parents are at work. A guide to help can be found on the Red Cross website.

Learn First Aid

  • Download the Red Cross First Aid app (Google Play | Apple iOS/iPadOS) – it provides instant access to information on handling common first aid emergencies before, during, and after school
  • Learn and practice first aid and CPR/AED skills through Red Cross classes; find one near you here.