While School Bus Safety Week is only observed during the third week of October-its message reverberates throughout the year. After all, some 25 million children ride school buses every day.
And, although school buses are said to be the safest form of highway transportation, accidents continue to happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seven school-age children are killed in school bus crashes every year-and 19 are killed getting on and off their school buses.
First and foremost, then, remind your child to avoid what’s called the Danger Zones-a ten foot area around the front, back, and both sides of the bus. The driver can’t see a child crossing too close to the front of the bus, and walking along the sides or back risks being hit by other motorists, as well.
Then take it further, reiterating how to get on the bus, behave while on board, and finally how to exit.
Kids should line up and board one at a time, and, once inside, quickly take a seat–and remain seated throughout the ride. To avoid distracting the driver, voices should be kept low. Should your child have a question, she should wait until the bus comes to a stop, then raise her hand, and call out the driver’s name to get her/his attention. Meanwhile, backpacks and such should be kept out of the aisle. And remember: rowdy behavior is never tolerated and is usually met by a loss of bus riding privileges.
When alighting from the bus, children should take their time and continually check in all directions for oncoming vehicles, making sure they can see and be seen by the driver. Once the driver signals that it’s clear to cross, kids should do so, steering clear of the bus’s Danger Zones.
Meanwhile, the school bus stopping laws differ somewhat from state to state. In Pennsylvania, motorists must . . .
1. STOP when meeting or overtaking a school bus whose red signal lights are flashing and stop arm is extended.
2. STOP when approaching an intersection where a school bus’s red signal lights are flashing and stop arm is extended.
3. STOP when traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus if there is only a ridged or grooved divider between the lanes.
4. Do NOT STOP when traveling in the opposite direction if there is a clearly indicated divider between lanes, such as trees, grass, etc.
5. STOP at least ten feet away from the bus and wait until both the lights stop flashing, the stop arm is retracted, and all children have moved to safety before traveling on.
Be forewarned: every year, about 1,000 Pennsylvania motorists fail to obey these bus stopping laws and receive a 60-day license suspension, five points on their driving records, plus a $250 fine.
So, for safety’s sake, be patient, obey the law, and heed the theme of this year’s School Bus Safety Week: “Avoid harm; obey the arm.”