PLAY IT SAFE NEAR SCHOOL BUSES
It's back to school time and that means thousands of yellow school buses will once again be making their daily rounds on North Carolina's roadways. It also means that students, parents and motorists will need to work together to ensure the safety of children as they head to and from school.
School buses are one of the safest transportation options for children. School buses are 60 times safer than passenger cars, light trucks, or vans, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System at the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, school bus transportation is not without its hazards.
Every school day in North Carolina, approximately 1,700 motorists illegally pass a stopped school bus, endangering the lives of students who are getting on or off the bus. In 1997, a special task force initiated an annual one-day count of stop-arm violations. Since then, school bus drivers have consistently counted between 1,500 and 2,000 violations on the one-day count. The one-day count on stop arm violations taken March 13, 2002 found that 2,007 motorists illegally passed a stopped school bus on that day. (Violations broken down by school system are available at http://www.ncbussafety.org/download/StopArmViolations2002.pdf)
Motorists play a key role in school bus safety. It is imperative that motorists observe the traffic safety rules around school buses. North Carolina law states that a motorist approaching a stopped school bus from any direction must come to a complete stop while the bus is displaying its mechanical stop arm and flashing red stoplights. The motorist must remain stopped until the stop arm has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off and the bus has moved on. [More information on North Carolina's School Bus Stop Law can be found at http://www.ncbussafety.org/SBSWlaw.html]
"A good rule of thumb is if the bus stops here, so should you," said North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Transportation Director Derek Graham. "Ultimately the safety of our children comes down to the alertness of motorists."
Besides being extra cautious around school buses, motorists need to be careful when traveling through neighborhoods, particularly around school zones, and be on the lookout for children who may be playing around school bus loading areas or who may dart into traffic as they run to catch the bus.
Getting on and off the school bus is the most dangerous part of the school bus ride for students. The loading and unloading area, which extends 10 feet around the perimeter of the bus, is where children are at greatest risk of not being seen by the bus driver or other motorists.
The beginning of the school year provides an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children the proper way to get on and off the bus. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests parents should help their children learn the rules of school bus safety:
- Get to the bus stop five minutes early. Running to catch the bus is dangerous and can lead to injuries.
- When the bus approaches, stand 10 feet (five giant steps) away from the curb and line up away from the street.
- Wait until the bus stops and the door opens before approaching the bus. The school bus warning lights and stop sign do not come on until the bus door opens.
- If you have to cross the street to get to the bus, make sure the driver sees you and that you can see the driver before you cross. Before crossing, students should look left, then right, then left again.
- Use the bus' handrails when getting on the bus and make sure that clothing or bookbags don't get caught in the rails or door when leaving the bus.
- Never walk behind the bus or closer than five giant steps on the side of the bus.
- If you drop something near the bus, make sure you tell the driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not see you.
Students can do their part to help ensure their safety by sitting fully in the seat and facing forward, speaking in a low voice, keeping hands and objects inside the bus, and never distracting the driver.
By working together, motorists, parents, and students can ensure the safety of children throughout the school year.
For more information on School Bus Safety, please contact Derek Graham, Transportation Services, DPI, 919.807.3570 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.