Clothing Hazards

In the last few years, there have been several serious student injuries or fatalities in other states due to clothing or backpacks that have drawstrings.

The drawstrings have gotten caught in handrails or the door of the bus, without the driver's knowledge.

Please inspect your child's clothing and backpack to ensure there are no drawstrings or other hanging objects that could get caught as they exit the bus.

If interested in obtaining more information about clothing hazards visit: NHTSA School Bus Handrail Handbook or visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission


Download the NHTSA School Bus Handrail Handbook

Download the NHTSA Tip Sheet on Handrails & Drawstrings

Danger Zones

The vast majority of school bus accidents and injuries to students occur outside of the bus in this danger zone.



Safety Tips

Students are directed to be no closer than twelve feet to the bus, except when loading and unloading.

If students drop papers, lunch boxes or other objects while loading or unloading from the bus the student must get the attention of the driver.


West County Transportation Agency provides evacuation drills and safe riding practices programs to all the students who ride our buses for the school districts we serve.

Listed below are the safe riding practices we will discuss and the evacuation procedures the students will be participating in.

The students will be expected to follow all the directions of the driver and to exit the bus through an emergency exit other than the front entrance door.

In an accident or emergency the driver will probably require you to stay on the bus; be calm and quiet, so the driver can get directions or help.

If the driver asks you to evacuate, he or she will tell you which door to use and where you will need to go after you exit the bus.

Safe Practices

  • Wait in a safe place for the bus, stay off the road and enter the bus single file-no pushing, etc.

  • Remain seated at all times (quick stops can send standing passengers flying)

  • Keep the aisles and emergency exits clear of feet, books and lunches (possible tripping problem)

  • Keep body parts and objects inside the bus (hands, arms etc. could get injured by tree Limbs, other vehicles: Trash or other objects could cause accidents with other drivers)

  • Keep your voices down (too much noise is a distraction to the driver)

  • Do not eat or drink on the bus (choking on food could be a problem, trash problem)

  • Never throw things inside the bus (other passengers could get hurt)

  • No fighting, pushing etc. This may start out as a game, but the driver may get distracted and someone may get hurt.

  • No lighting of matches, smoking etc. (seats can catch fire and completely burn a bus in Less than four minutes)

  • When crossing the road, always follow the directions of the driver.

  • When loading or unloading, always be careful around the bus, make sure the driver can see you. If you drop a paper or your lunch pail, do not get it, go back and tell the driver, let the driver help you get it.

  • Move away from the front, sides, or back of the bus. These are all areas where you cannot be seen from the inside. If the bus was moved while you were standing in one these areas you could be seriously injured or killed. These areas are called the "danger zones." So, remember to stay away from the danger zone areas.

  • Always follow the directions of the driver.

Basic Instructions

  • The driver will show the location of and explain the use of the Fire Extinguisher, Reflectors, and First Aid Kit.

  • How to open all emergency exits including roof hatches, front door and windows.

  • Location and use of Two Way Radio.

In an actual evacuation the driver will ask for helpers from among the passengers. It is a good idea to already know who your helpers are going to be and alternates in case those students are not riding the bus when the need arises for an evacuation.

The driver will need 2 helpers and one leader from among the passengers.

  • The leader will take the students at least 100 feet away from the bus to a safe location.

  • The 2 helpers will help the other students in the actual evacuation by supporting them as they exit the bus.

(The two helpers are to leave the bus first using the emergency exit the driver has indicated. The helpers will stand on each side of the emergency exit with hands and arms extended to help support each student as they exit the bus. The leader should then be the next one to evacuate to be able to direct or lead the students to a place of safety.)

The driver shall remain on the bus until all passengers have evacuated and then will re-check the bus to confirm that all passengers are safely away.

To School Administrators, Principals and Teachers

In order to help expedite these procedures the driver may ask you for additional assistance during the actual evacuation through the side emergency exit, helping students to follow directions and reducing the risk of injury.

Thank you again for your cooperation and assistance. We couldn't do it without you, Remember School Bus Safety is a team effort. 

Kindergarten Orientation

Each year we provide the opportunity for all the school districts to participate in our kindergarten orientation. Our drivers are highly skilled and trained to discuss the safe riding practices in a format that the kindergarten child can understand.

We would be pleased to do a school bus orientation program with your kindergarten classes either prior to or after school begins. We recommend that parents attend to also learn about school bus safety and for them to help reinforce safe riding practices to their child. The program begins in the classroom with the driver discussing school bus safety and ends with a short ride on a school bus. The program can be accomplished in an hour or less.

We will talk briefly to students regarding waiting at the bus stop, basic safety rules while riding the bus, boarding the bus and alighting the bus. We emphasis the danger zone and the importance of telling the bus driver if they drop anything under the bus. The highlight, of course, would be the actual ride on the bus in which we will show the kindergarten child the basic rules to follow.

We currently use the S.A.F.E. Bus Riders Program that was specifically geared for the kindergarten rider. The program was developed by Jan O'Hanlon-Wilson. It incorporates simple but very effective program that uses a visual magnetic board, posters and stickers to help reinforce S.A.F.E. bus rider ship.

If interested in scheduling a kindergarten orientation, please call West County Transportation at 206-9988

Multi Agency Drills

To help prepare Emergency Teams in Sonoma County in case of a major accident involving a school bus, West County donated this bus to use in Multi Agency Drills.

These drills help to prepare emergency personnel on how a bus is configured and the easiest way to gain access. 

This crown was rolled over on it's side to simulate a school bus rollover.  This gave the emergency personnel an opportunity to try other means of entering the bus.

Kids from the local high school simulated injuries which could occur in an accident such as a rollover.

These type of drills are valuable to the community and all individuals who are involved in  emergency preparedness.

Railroad Crossings

A school bus with passengers is required to stop at all railroad crossings and check to make sure it is safe to proceed across the tracks. The driver is required to look and listen in both directions along the tracks for an approaching train.

All school bus drivers really care about the safety of your children and will stop at all railroad crossings for your child's sake. Mechanical warning devices such as lights, bells and gates are great but unfortunately can malfunction and do.

As a California Motorist, you should be aware of railroad crossings and the potential for disaster.

If a malfunction occurs, school bus drivers we will not assume a train is not coming but instead will assume one is coming and find an alternate route.

We will not cross the tracks when the gates are down.

Please give all school buses a brake when it comes to railroad crossings.

To learn more about Railroad Crossings, visit

Smart Rail Safety Education

Operation Lifesaver California

Operation Lifesaver, Inc

Federal Railroad Administration

Safe Riding Practices

The regular driver will orient students regarding basic expectations in the first couple of days.

Within the first two months of school students receive training in safe riding practices and evacuation of a school bus which may be supplemented by classroom activities.

In a nutshell, classroom behavior is expected on all school buses.

By law, students must remain seated at all times, must keep all body parts and objects inside the windows of the bus, and must follow all directions of the driver.

The driver must be responsible for the safe transportation of as many as 84 passengers, so the fewer the distractions, the safer the ride will be.

Five Basic Rules to Safe Riding

Parents teach you kids these 5 basic rules.............          

Listed below are the 5 basic safe riding rules

  1. Follow the instructions of your bus driver

  2. Remain seated at all times

  3. Keep your head and arms inside the bus at all times

  4. Please no loud talking or boisterous conduct.

  5. Please no eating or drinking on the bus.

Safety Week In Sonoma County

This annual declaration is intended to draw attention to the superior safety record of school buses in this nation and to caution motorists to always be aware when they are driving around school buses. 

At West County, we use this week to educate and promote school busing.  We may set up a display at the local mall, or in supermarket parking lots as well as entering numerous parades through out the year to promote safety.  This is a great opportunity to advertise the need for passionate, caring and dedicated individuals to consider a career as a Professional School Bus Driver.

Stop When Red Lights Flash

Whenever the red, alternate flashing lights (near the top of the bus) are illuminated all traffic must stop in both directions, as students are loading or unloading and may be crossing the road.

With kindergarten through eighth grade the driver must get out and physically escort the students.

Even though not required, we perform the same procedure for all high school students.

Please be exceedingly aware of school buses that are stopped.

Students that are alighting the bus at their stop must be extra cautious to exit the bus and walk away from it as quickly as possible.

Dropped papers and books

Please instruct your child that if he or she drops papers or books, to walk away far from the bus and get the driver's attention. Never go under the bus to retrieve papers and stand back a good distance from the bus.

California Procedure

California's procedure for crossing students at bus stops is vastly different and safer than the procedure of any other state in the nation. When a student needs to cross the road and the stop is designated as a "red light crossing", the driver sets the parking brake, secures the bus, checks traffic, turns on the red lights, takes the key, opens the door and exits the bus with a hand-held stop sign to "escort" the students across the road. The student should follow all of the directions of the driver, and not cross the road until the driver verbally tells the student to proceed. This crossing maneuver is considered most dangerous and students must be aware, alert and follow all directions of the driver.

After September 1,1992, Federal and State law requires all new school buses in California to be equipped with a stop sign on the side of the bus near the rear that will be extended at red light crossings. In addition, drivers that escort students will be required to use a hand-held stop sign. Some of the older buses may not be equipped as such, so please be aware of buses with and without stop signs on them.

Look for the Red Lights

Some of our newest buses will also have amber flashing lights next to the red ones that will be illuminated approximately 200 feet prior to the bus stop to warn motorists of the impending red light stop.

After January 1,1998, school buses are required to use the red flashing lights every time they load and unload students, not just when students cross the road. There is a dramatic increase in the number of times you will encounter school buses with their red lights flashing. As a passing or following motorist, you are required to stop until the lights are extinguished to protect the students. As you know students may act in an unpredictable fashion. Stopping for the red lights prevents a potential tragedy.

Citations for passing a stopped school bus with red lights flashing in Sonoma County is about $400 for the first violation and at least $1,000 for the second violation

To The Parents

We all have a responsibility when it comes to school bus safety. This page was developed to help parents teach their children about safety while riding the school bus. Not only does the parent have a responsibility to teach their children about safety but the children have a responsibility to act and behave appropriately on the bus.

Most school bus fatalities occur when children are outside the bus, and 75% of these fatalities involve children under the age of nine.

Download our Tip Sheet for Parents

Make sure your children know and follow these rules

  1. Be on time

  2. Always walk, Never run to or from the bus

  3. Stand back from the curb

  4. Wait until the bus doors open before approaching the bus

  5. Don't push or shove

  6. Stay in your seat

  7. Don't yell or shout

  8. Never crawl under a bus

  9. Always obey the driver

  10. Explain about the danger zones

Meet the Bus

Coordinate with other parents to ensure an adult is present at the bus stop every day, especially when children under the age of nine are present.

Remove Drawstrings

Clothing your children like may not always be safe. Drawstrings can catch in playground equipment, fences, school bus doors and escalators. Remove, shorten or replace drawstrings with another kind of fastener.

To The Motorists

Everybody has a job in school bus safety

Everybody has a job in school bus safety, even you the Motorist, School Bus Drivers can not do their job of safely transporting students to and from school without your help.

This page was developed to help you, the California Motorists to understand school buses a little better and to hopefully enhance your education on the laws and safety aspects relating to the school bus industry.

We Need Your Help

You the motorist need to be attentive to see the school buses stopped on the road or off the road. BE PREPARED FOR THE RED LIGHTS AT ALL TIMES WHEN APPROACHING A SCHOOL BUS. But even when these lights are not flashing, or even after flashing red lights are turned off, you should slow down and use extra caution whenever driving in the vicinity of a school bus.                                 

As we all know children are unpredictable and may run out into traffic.  The students on a school bus depend on you not to endanger them as they enter or exit their school bus.

When to stop...When to go

This can be an extremely difficult decision you have to make as a Motorist in the State of California. It may even be the cost of a child's life if you make the wrong decision.


What are Red Lights

Red lights flashing on a stopped school bus mean that children will be exiting the bus and for their safety the law requires all motorists to stop until the red lights stop flashing.

The red lights are located in the front and rear of the bus at the very top.

All California School Bus Drivers do their best to give you a warning that the red lights are about to be activated by displaying flashing amber lights 200 feet prior to stopping to load or unload students.

What are Amber Lights

The amber flashing lights are located in the front and rear of the school bus at the very top next to the red lights.

Compliments of
Blue Bird Corporation

WHAT ABOUT THOSE SCHOOL BUSES THAT JUST THROW ON THE RED LIGHTS WITH NO WARNING?  Not all school buses in the state have the amber flashing lights, so when ever you see a bus pulling over to the side of the road you should slow down and prepare for the flashing red lights to be activated.

What does this mean to you the motorist

When the amber lights are flashing it indicates the red flashing lights are about to come on and children will be entering or exiting the bus. As a motorist you do not need to stop for the flashing amber lights but you should slow down and be prepared to stop. Once the flashing red lights are activated you are required to stop.

Basically like a taffic light, amber means slow, red means stop.

Where to stop

You are required to stop prior to the bus before you pass the rear bumper or the front bumper.

Waiting At The Bus Stop

Students should wait in an orderly fashion while at the bus stop in the morning. They should be at the bus stop five minutes prior to the posted stop time.

Students should be at least twelve feet back from the main traveled portion of the roadway and visible to the driver.

Pushing, shoving or horseplay is not allowed at the bus stop. Students should be mindful of the bus stop location. Many are in driveways and on private property.

Students are not allowed to throw rocks or other objects, play around, cause excessive noise, touch or tamper with the other private property or vehicles nearby.

Once the bus arrives students shall wait for the driver to come to a complete stop and the door of the bus to open before they begin to move forward to the bus.

Students should board the bus one-at-a-time, using the available handrails, and move quickly to an open seat.

If a student drops papers or other objects while boarding the bus, he/she should get the attention of the driver.


Walking To & From The Bus Stop

Students should be particularly careful when walking to and from school bus stops. If possible, parents should accompany young children to the bus stop and assist in keeping order while waiting for the bus.

Here are some guidelines to discuss with your children:

1) Allow enough time in the morning to get to the bus without hurrying. Rushing causes carelessness, a major factor in accidents. They should be at the bus stop at least five minutes prior to the scheduled bus time.

2) Children should be instructed to keep on sidewalks or on the shoulder, and far away from the main traveled portion of the roadway.

3) Children should pay close attention to traffic, weather conditions, and visibility conditions, visible clothing, or clothing and backpacks with reflective material should be worn at all times.

4) Children should remain orderly at all times and refrain from boisterous conduct or horseplay while walking to and from the school bus stop.

5) Children should not engage in conversation with strangers or accept rides from passing motorists

6) When walking to or from a bus stop, children should face traffic.

Check out these sites:

Sonoma County Safe Routes to School Program

California Walk to School Headquarters

National Center for Safe Routes to School

Federal Highway Administration Safe Routes to School