Now that the kids are back in school it is hard not to reflect back at my own days spent in school. I live near the high school in Harmony, so I frequently see kids coming and going and buses pass- ing by. Seeing the first day back- to-school photos on Facebook brought back even more memo- ries. I was especially touched by a few that showed children board- ing the bus and being greeted by the friendly smile of the bus driv- er.

I was very lucky to have had wonderful bus drivers during my years in school. I always felt safe and only a few times did I doubt whether I'd make it to school on time - but most of those incidents were weather related, so we were already excused!

A parent recently came into talk to me about something she was concerned about. Her child's bus driver was frequently texting or using her cell phone while driving the bus. She did the right thing and called the bus company and that driver is not driving for the district any longer. However, it made me think about how, in my day way back when, our drivers didn't even have radios in their buses. We were the only distrac- tions the drivers had!

Bus safety is very relevant this time of year, but also throughout the year. I think we just take it for granted that we put our kids on the bus and they will safely arrive at school.

Sgt. Jacalyn Sticha of the Minnesota State Patrol recently shared that the bus is truly the safest way to get your kids to school, but one must also help to make that continue to be the case! Here are a few suggestions she shared in her regular feature, "Ask a Trooper."

"Riding on a school bus is the

safest way for your child to travel to and from school, yes, safer than riding in a parent's vehicle," she said. "The greatest risk is approaching or leaving the school bus - the 10-feet surrounding the bus is the DANGER ZONE."

School buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury.

School buses keep an annual estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning.

Here are some of her safety sug- gestions for children, parents and other drivers.

For children:

• Stand 6 feet away from curb/roadway when waiting for bus.

• Wait for driver to say it is safe to board and use the handrails; do not wear loose items.

• Ask the driver for help if you dropped something when getting off the bus.

• Go directly to your seat and remain, facing forward. Only three children can be in a seat if the entire third student is on the seat and not in the isle.

• Be respectful and quite; the bus driver's job is to safely drive the bus.

For parents:

• Make sure children also look for traffic for themselves - left and right - making sure no one is

passing the school bus on either side.

• The bus driver's job is to oper- ate the bus safely, and driving is a full time job. Instruct riders about respectful behavior and conduct on the bus while keeping voices down.

For vehicle drivers:

• SCAN roadways and side- walks for buses and/or pedestrians constantly.

• Re-route yourself around school bus routes or leave earli- er/later to avoid school buses.

• Look for lower speed zones and school zones - they are strict- ly enforced.

• Stop for school bus if follow- ing or oncoming. If you are oncoming and there is a median or grass divide between you and the school bus you do not have to stop.

• Learn the flashing lights on a school bus!

YELLOW Flashing Lights - indicates the school bus is prepar- ing to stop and so should you and then stop, not getting closer than 20 feet at any time - do not creep up while waiting for stop arm to be pulled in.

RED Flashing Lights and an extended Stop Arm means the bus has stopped and children will be loading or unloading. Drivers must stop, and remain stopped, until the lights stop flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins to move.

• Report school bus drivers, you witness, who do not use the sys- tem properly.

• Report to your school if chil- dren are standing in the bus.

• School bus may not have enough seats for students. (Seating for everyone must be provided.)

• School bus drivers should not move bus until everyone is seated.