How old is old enough?Another question parents often face: When is my child old enoughto walk to school or to the bus stop alone?”It all depends on the maturity of the child,” Bower said.It also depends on neighborhood safety.”A child should not walk to school by himself younger than age9,” Bower said. “They should walk with an adult. But at 9 yearsold and up, depending on the neighborhood and the distance toschool, most mature children should be fine.”The same can be used as a guideline for going to a bus stopalone.”A parent should walk with the child to school or the bus stopthe first few times for practice,” Bower said.Seatbelts on school buses are an often-debated issue, but Bowersays full-sized buses are very safe with or without them. Somestates require belts on buses, and the NHTSA is reviewing thesestandards.The greatest risks to children on school buses are other cars.The NHTSA warns that in neighborhoods, near schools and at busstops, drivers need to take special care because children don’tbehave like adults and may dart out into the road. Watchcarefully as children exit a school bus. And wait for the bus tomove along before driving forward. More than 33 children die each yearMillions of children in the United States ride safely on schoolbuses each day. But an average of 33 school-age children die inschool bus-related traffic crashes each year, according to theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”In the 1997-98 school year, more than 800 students (ages 5-18)were killed on their way to and from school if you include allmodes of transportation — not just school buses,” Bower said.According to the NHTSA, an average of 14 school-age pedestriansare killed by school buses each year, and six are killed by othervehicles involved in bus-related accidents.Most of those killed in bus accidents are pedestrians 5 to 7years old. They’re hit in the danger zone around the bus, eitherby a passing vehicle or by the bus itself.”Many more kids are killed running in front of or behind the busand getting hit by another car,” Bower said. “They can get theirbackpack caught on the bus handrail and get injured or stoop topick something up under the bus and the driver doesn’t see them.” Follow these safety rulesGet the year off to a good start by reviewing bus-stop safetyrules.Bill Barnett of the Pupil Transportation division of the GeorgiaDepartment of Public Safety offers these tips:* Get to the bus stop 5 minutes before the bus’s scheduledarrival. “Kids get hurt when they are rushing to catch a bus,” hesaid.* Don’t play at the bus stop.* Wait well off the road.* Dress for the weather.* Don’t start toward the bus until it stops completely and thered lights come on.* When you get on the bus, use the handrail and take the stepsone at a time.* Cross in front of the bus, far enough out so the driver can seeyou.* If you have to cross the street to get on the bus, check fortraffic and wait for the bus driver to signal you to cross theroad. “After the driver signals, check for traffic again beforeyou cross the road,” Barnett warns. By Faith PeppersUniversity of GeorgiaThe first day of school, just a few weeks away, can be exciting.New clothes, new book bags, new teachers and, for some, the newexperience of riding the big, yellow bus. Before you send yourchild to the bus stop, be prepared.”Students are much more at risk traveling to and from school thanat any other time during the school day,” said Don Bower, aUniversity of Georgia Extension Service human developmentspecialist.