The new school year is now well underway and for thousands of children this will be their first experience of going to school. For many more, the need to use public transport to get to school will be new to them and they will have to learn to adapt quickly.
Although it may not be the main method of transport a child uses to get to school, we should still be familiar with what we need to be doing when we get on the bus with small children. It may be the case that we normally travel by car and one day, for whatever reason, we need to take the bus. The first thing we need to be aware of is that we are not talking about school transportation: we are discussing the typical city bus or intercity bus.
In the case of a city bus, everything will depend on whether we are using a stroller or not. If we are, there is an area in the center of the vehicle reserved for parking strollers and we can secure it in place with special belts to make sure it will not roll around during the journey.
When using a city bus, if the child does not use a child seat and can walk by themselves we must make sure that they are sitting down properly and do not get up during the journey so that they do not fall over or hit themselves. It is not a good idea for the child to travel standing up, in case the driver has to brake sharply and the child could fall over.
In the case of intercity buses, in Spain we have our General Traffic Rules (Reglamento General de Circulación) which indicate that in these vehicles (and, in general, all vehicles used for passenger transport which have more than 9 seats) approved restraint systems must be used for children over three years old, either by means of seats equipped with seat belts or with other approved restraint systems.
The problem with seat belts on buses is that they are only two-point belts without shoulder belts. This type of belt does not have the same protective features as a three-point belt and has nowhere near the same restraining capacity as the five-point harnesses on young children's child car seats.
This is why it would be best to use a child car seat on this type of transport. This can be done as long as the child car seat can be properly fitted onto the bus seat and does not impede the free movement of the rest of the passengers. This means that it must fit between the seat rows, it should not encroach on the seat next to it and we should be able to secure the seat with the seat belt so that it does not tip or move uncontrollably.
There are approved safety harnesses on the market which are specifically designed for bus seats which are less bulky and can be secured to the seat with several bands and straps.