Those of us with teenagers and pre-teens know that our kids must sometimes get from place to place without our supervision. Most of us will eventually get them a car when they are old enough, but it turns out that public transit is actually a safer way for them to get around.
I always knew that teenage driving was dangerous, but I was shocked to learn that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of twelve and nineteen. Our kids are much safer on public transit than they are in automobiles, but it is still important for us to remember that no method of transportation is one hundred percent safe.
The Surprising Facts
The main danger of using public transit is the possibility of being involved in an accident. These accidents may not occur frequently, but they do occur. Buses are the most popular method of public transportation for teenagers; mostly due to the fact that many of our cities and towns don’t have metro rails or subways. Luckily, our city bus drivers are amongst the most well trained drivers in the country.
If your child has the opportunity to ride the city bus, you will be pleased to learn that according to statistics, bus accidents are not a huge issue to worry about. In 2009 there were only twenty-six bus related fatalities; while there were over thirteen thousand deaths that involved passenger cars. When bus accidents do occur, they are usually due to exceeding the bus seating capacity, faulty equipment or dangerous driving conditions. Since these do not occur frequently, the chance of our kids being involved in a bus accident is very unlikely.
Subways and metro rails are another form of public transit that your kids might use if it is available in your area. The chance of them being involved in an accident on a rail or subway is also very unlikely. According to NY personal injury attorney David Perecman, the majority of subway accidents are caused due to human or machine error. It might surprise you to know that while New York City’s subway provides more than one billion rides yearly, in 2006 only six people died due to accidents on the subway. So once again, these forms of public transit are much safer than traveling in a motor vehicle.
Tips to Stay Safe
Even though the risk of danger is relatively low when using public transit; there are quite a few tips that parents should teach their children to increase the likelihood that they will have a safe commute.
- Plan Out Route – Make sure your child has their route fully planned out before they leave home. Knowing exactly where they will switch buses and what time the next bus arrives will reduce the chances that they will get lost or sidetracked.
- Walking to the Station or Stop – It is very important that your children know and follow pedestrian safety rules, especially if they have to cross unfamiliar streets to make a transfer. Be certain they know to walk to the corners before crossing the street and to wait until the ‘WALK’ sign is lit at crosswalks.
- Dress Conservatively – This isn’t a political ideology. Our kids should not go onto a bus or subway wearing all of their ‘bling.’ Even though it is unlikely that they will be the victim of a crime; it is still possible. While this tip may not be very popular with teens, they should avoid drawing attention to themselves with what they are wearing on public transit.
- Stay Away from Doors – If there are no seats available and they have to stand for a while, let your child know that they should stay away from the doors. Blocking or leaning on the doors is very dangerous. Also, as soon as a seat opens up, they should quickly sit down before they start moving again.
- Don’t Mistake Bus Types – Children will sometimes forget that there are difference between school buses and city buses. Remind your child that city buses do not wait for passengers to cross the street in front of them and that the traffic around the bus will not slow down. It does not matter where the bus stops and lets them off, they should always go to a corner or crosswalk before attempting to cross the street.
All things considered, public transportation is a much safer option than driving for our teens and pre-teens. The likelihood of them getting hurt is much higher when they are driving or traveling with other young drivers. All of us want our children to remain safe when they are out and about on their own, and using public transit options is usually the safest method to get them to their destination and back home safely.
About the Author: Shelby Warden is a mother of two and legal researcher who pays particular attention to laws designed to protect our children. She contributes articles for David Perecman of the Perecman Law Firm in New York. Their lawyers have extensive experience representing injury victims and their families after bus, subway and other MTA accidents. If your child is injured while using public transportation, contact these experts!