Nathan Prins, of Red Deer, gets helped out of the bus while practising a bus evacuation during the First Rider school bus event at Notre Dame High School in Red Deer Tuesday. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

First Rider program teaches Red Deer children how to ride the bus safely

An event teaching children how to be safe on school buses was held in Red Deer Tuesday.

The annual First Rider, which is held in partnership with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, Red Deer Public Schools, Chinook’s Edge School Division and Prairie Bus Lines Ltd., took place in the Notre Dame High School parking lot.

“Anybody who hasn’t rode on a bus before, mostly kindergarten children, will come here and get to learn safety on a school bus,” said Corinne Varga, Prairie Bus Lines operations manager.

Children, who are accompanied by a parent or guardian, start the program by jumping on the Red Deer Rebels’ coach bus to watch a safety video starring Winnie-the-Pooh. Then students are split into two groups, based on whether they live in a rural or urban area.

“They go to two different sides and learn the safety of pick-ups and drop-offs at certain locations,” said Varga.

“In Red Deer, there’s a city bylaw stating school buses aren’t allowed to use their red flashing lights.

“In the country, of course we can use the red flashing lights, as well as in places like Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds, Penhold and surrounding areas.”

Afterwards the students learn how to do a bus evacuation and then hop on a bus and ride around the block.

“Most children are going to be on the bus for a lot of years. If you start them out right, and they understand the safety aspect of it, the ride becomes more enjoyable.”

The event taught students many things, including: be alert to traffic, check both ways for vehicles before stepping off the bus or onto a curb and never go back to retrieve something they’ve dropped near a school bus.

Varga said riding the bus for the first time can be a bit scary for children – giving them an opportunity to learn with their parents can help calm that fear.

“The first day when these kids get on the bus, they’re on their own. Here they’re with their parents, so they get that little bit of comfort.”

First Rider helps teach parents as well, she added.

Another First Rider event was held Tuesday as well in Olds.

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