Declining rural populations and the resulting consolidation over the years have had the unfortunate effect of forcing students to spend more and more time on the road, getting to and from school.
It's a dangerous activity for young drivers, especially when electronic distractions are combined with bad weather and teenage attention spans.
But even official transportation like a public school bus can be hazardous, even in McCook, where three neighborhood elementary schools were combined into the old North Ward site, meaning fewer children are able to walk to school, and more catch a bus or a ride with parents.
"Studies have proven that the most dangerous part of the school bus ride is when children get on and off the bus," said Cindy Houlden, Safety Education and Research Manager for the Nebraska Safety Center. "All drivers need to remember to pay close attention to school buses both when the buses are moving and stopped to load or unload."
Her facility is observing National School Bus Safety Week this week, with the theme "I See The Driver-The Driver Sees Me."
Houlden also recommends children have a solid education in the proper way to get on and off a bus and makes the following recommendations:
Students riding a school bus should always:
* Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early
* Stand at least five giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road
* Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it's okay before stepping onto the bus
* Check both ways for cars before stepping off the bus
Students crossing the street should always:
* Walk in front of the bus, and never walk behind the bus
* Walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least 10 giant steps ahead of the bus
* Be sure the bus driver can see them, and they can see the bus driver
* Wait for the driver's signal to cross the street
Parents are also reminded to be sure their children are aware of the "Danger Zone"; which is basically anywhere within ten feet of a bus. More than 22.5 million students in the United States, over half of all students, ride a bus at one time or another during the week.