Imagine: millions of students nationwide start their day by getting on and off the school bus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that year after year, pedestrians who are usually below the age of 19 have died in school bus-related crashes. More school-age pedestrians have been killed between the hours of 3 and 4 p.m. than any other time of day. The NHTSA has even formulated several safety tips for both drivers and children:
Take note of the crosswalk/school zone sign.
- Drivers: This means that during mornings and afternoons, these areas are likely to be crowded with children — some even on their bicycles or in-line skates. All of them are no match to a bus, so extra care in part of the driver is needed.
- Children: Do what you learned in pre-school: look left, then right to see if vehicles or people are going to pass before crossing the street. If you could, go along with other children/people using the crosswalk.
Learn the “Flashing Signal Light System”that school buses use.
- Drivers: Alert motorists if you are preparing to/stopping the school bus using the yellow/red light.
- Children:Just because they are in a stop position does not mean there is no more danger. Take note of the danger zones around a stopped school bus, namely, the front and back (which are the most dangerous zones) and the driver’s side of the bus.
- Drivers: Be alert around school zones. Young people may be rushing about on their way to class or to meet a parent.
- Children: No need to rush when getting on or off. Wait until the bus hits a full stop, with the doors wide open before getting in. Use the handrails to avoid falls.
- Drivers: For a vehicle such as a school bus, you really can’t see what’s directly below you. Be careful before speeding on.
- Children: When crossing in front of a bus, put a safe distance (say, 10 feet) between the bus and where you plan to cross. Use sidewalks and walkways where you’re sure the driver sees you.
- Drivers: Be aware if children/bicycles are crossing behind you.
- Children: Never be the children/children-in-bicycles who cross behind buses.
To enforce traffic safety, the state of Florida has enforced tougher penalties for passing a stopped school bus while loading or unloading children. Previously the fine was $65.00, however now they are required to attend a 4-hour basic driver improvement course. This course explains Florida traffic laws and provides a refresher on defensive driving techniques.
So, for all drivers before you rush to pass a stopped school bus remember that the school bus uses the red flashing lights for a reason. And for pedestrians and children always but safety first and proceed with caution when exiting or entering the bus or in school zones.