Wednesday, February 11, 2009

School Bus Safety

I am writing this in response to two of Jenn P.'s articles about a tragedy that recently happened near her. The articles can be found here: and here:

School Bus Safety is very important. Not only for the children and the bus driver, but also for other drivers on the road. School Bus Safety involves everyone.

The laws vary from state to state so I will give the basics that should be in all states based on NC law.

School bus drivers should be aware of all things around them at all times. You should not be talking on cell phones, eating, drinking, taking pictures, carrying on long conversations with the kids, etc. You mind should be on the traffic, the stops and making sure that the kids are in their assigned seats. Put on your amber lights early enough to let other drivers know that you are about to make a stop. It is about 300 feet before the bus stop in NC. Come to a complete stop and then put on the red lights. The red lights come on normally when the school bus door is opened. Stop about 15 feet away from the kids and let them walk to you.

Make sure that ALL traffic has come to a complete stop before allowing children to enter/exit the bus and/or cross the street. (I will personally blow the horn if I see someone who does not want to stop. My kids on the bus know that if I am blowing the horn not to try and cross the street or get off the bus until I tell them it is okay.)

I also count the kids at the bus stop so I know how many should be getting onto the bus and count them as they get off the bus so I know how many there should be. I make sure that exact number gets on or off and watch them as they go their separate ways. Even though I know all kids are on/off the bus safely, I do not move my bus. I make sure all the kids are in their assigned seats or at least 15 feet away from the bus before I check my mirrors again. I start left to right: left mirror, left front mirror, right front mirror, right mirror, rear view mirror. this also gives me the opportunity to look for parent's cars or children who may be running late and are running toward the bus to catch it. Once I know that everyone is safe and no one has bent down in front of the bus (that is what those two mirrors on the front of the bus are for), I can then close my door and proceed on with my route.

Children should be at the stop on time if at all possible. They should stand at least 15 feet away from the road. If the driver is stopping at your house and it is too cold for your child to be outside, make sure you have the porch light on so the driver knows if your child will be riding or not. The driver should be communicated with about this either by the parents if the children are small or can arrange with the child to do this. There should be no horseplay at the bus stop as this can be dangerous. Many a child has been hit by a car because they were pushing each other in play. Children should line up just before the bus arrives so they can get the bus in a quick and orderly fashion.

When going home, children should remain in their seats until the bus has come to a complete stop. DO NOT stand up before the bus has stopped. If the driver would have to hit the brakes extra hard, the child would go flying down and get hurt. Also, no child should be standing in front of the "line" at the first seat. Make sure they know they cannot stand or sit in the stairwell as this is also extremely dangerous. School bus seats are designed to protect the children, so they should all be facing the front when sitting.

Drivers of other cars should be aware of times of the buses being out on the road. Watch for those amber lights and be ready to slow down and come to a stop when you see them. DO NOT PASS A STOPPED SCHOOL BUS!!! This could kill a child and that child could very well be yours. Be aware of children crossing the road in front of you. Make sure you stop far enough away if you are going in the opposite direction of the bus so that children can cross the street safely without having to walk behind your car. This creates even more danger for the children.

Do not try and outrace a school bus that going in the same direction as you. Many times I see cars pass me on a double yellow line and I just hold my breath and pray that they do not cause an accident. Most drivers are not aware where each bus stop is and when they pass a school bus and whip back over in front of it to avoid a head on collision, they could easily over correct and hit children who are standing at a bus stop. Leave a few minutes early if you see you are going to be getting behind a school bus in the morning to avoid this problem.

I hope that this little bit of information will help you to be more aware of school buses and the dangers involved. Please make sure your children know where to stand and how to act at the stop and on the bus. Children can go to their driver and let them know about any dangers they see on a regular basis, such as someone speeding through a residential area or mobile home park, bullies, street lights not working, etc. This information will help the bus driver keep the stops as safe as possible. We can and do communicate with the school and law enforcement officers (city, county, state) about any and all situations that cause hazards.

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