A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: Reminders about safety and school buses that every motorist (and students) need to heed

Last week’s crash in which three siblings were struck and killed by a pick-up truck and another child was left in critical condition as they were about to board their school bus in Fulton County, Ind., serves as a somber reminder about the importance of school bus safety. Today, a vehicle crashed into three children and two adults at a school bus stop in Tampa, injuring them.

Motorists need to be particularly diligent about slowing down, avoiding distractions and staying alert during the morning and afternoon hours when school buses are more likely to be on the road reminds AAA.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the school bus is the safest vehicle on the road, keeping your child safer while traveling to and from school than traveling by car.

“The greatest risk to your child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, AAA Blue Grass manager of public and government affairs. “It’s important that parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other safety advocates join forces to build awareness of the importance of school bus safety.”

Every day, about 500,000 school buses transport more than 23 million students to and from school. However, each year, nationally, about 24 school-aged children are killed in school transportation-related traffic crashes. During the 2016-17 school year in Kentucky, school buses were involved in over 1,000 traffic incidents, most of which involved other vehicles, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. Nearly 250 of those incidents occurred when the bus was approaching, stopped at or leaving a loading zone.

“In addition to following the rules of the road, motorists are also reminded to put away phones and other distractions to keep focused on the road as buses can stop and start frequently, picking up and dropping off students,” Weaver Hawkins added. “Changing weather conditions and shortened daylight hours can make for particularly dangerous situations.”

AAA offers these tips for students taking the bus and for motorists sharing the road:

While Waiting at the Bus Stop

• Have children wait in a location where the bus driver can easily see them while driving down the street.

• Do not let children play in or near the street. Playing with balls or other toys that could roll into the street is also dangerous.

• Stand at least five giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road.

• Children should be reminded to obey the AAA School Safety Patrol, crossing guard, officer or supervising adult, if present.
Getting On and Off the Bus

• Children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door to get onto or off the bus. Your child should use the handrails to avoid falling.

• Warn children that if they drop something getting on and off the bus, they should never attempt to pick it up. Instead, they should tell the driver and follow the driver’s instructions.

• Remind children to stop at the edge of the bus and look left and right before crossing.

• Your child should never walk behind a school bus. If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, tell him/her to walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing. Your child should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see him/her. 

• If you meet your child at the bus stop after school, wait on the side where the child will be dropped off, not across the street. Children can be so excited to see you after school that they dash across the street and forget the safety rules.

While Driving

• Slow down. Watch for children walking to and from the bus stop as well as standing at the bus stop. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if the neighborhood has no sidewalks.

• Be mindful when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage. Watch for children walking or bicycling to school.

• Yellow flashing lights on a school bus mean that a bus is preparing to stop. Do not try to pass the bus! Begin slowing and prepare to stop your vehicle.

• Red flashing lights indicate that a bus has stopped to load or unload children. Stop your car and wait for the bus lights to stop flashing before moving your vehicle. Passing a loading or unloading school bus is reckless driving.

For motorists, being caught behind a school bus can be frustrating and may require additional patience at times. It is important to know that all 50 states have laws surrounding school bus safety and ignoring those laws can result in hefty fines.  AAA’s Digest of Motor Laws provides information on each state’s law related to buses.

In Kentucky, there are two rules to remember about traveling on the roadways with buses:

• If any school or church bus is stopped and has a stop arm and signal lights activated, any vehicle approaching from any direction must stop and may not proceed until the bus has been put into motion. This rule does not apply when approaching a stopped bus from the opposite direction upon a highway of 4 or more lanes.
 

• School buses, loaded or unloaded, cannot turn right on red in Kentucky or left on red where two one way streets intersect.

From AAA Blue Grass

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