STUDENTS PLAY CRITICAL ROLE IN SCHOOL BUS SAFETY
Bright and early this morning, more than 800,000 public school students boarded a school bus and headed off to school. But if past numbers from the state’s annual stop-arm violation count continue to hold true, at least 3,100 vehicles will have illegally passed a stopped school bus while students were trying to get on and off the bus.
Each year, school bus drivers are asked to take a single-day count of how many times a vehicle passes their school bus while it is stopped to load or unload children. For the past several years that number has remained fairly consistent with more than 3,100 vehicles illegally passing a stopped school bus. Motorists fail to stop when coming from behind, from ahead and even on the right side of the bus. Multiply this single-day’s count by 180 days of school, and the number of violations is staggering, putting at risk the lives of thousands of children. Since 1998, 13 students have died from injuries sustained because a motorist illegally passed a stopped school bus. Violations continue despite ongoing public awareness and enforcement efforts.
To help address this continuing concern, the State Board of Education revised its bus-safety policy in July 2015 to focus more attention on the role of students, parents and school bus drivers at the bus stop.
Drawing on school bus safety standards and practices from across the country, the revised policy requires bus drivers to use a standard hand signal that tells students a roadway is safe to cross. The hand signals empower the driver, usually the only school system employee on the scene, and guide students to consciously assess the roadway by looking at their bus driver before stepping into an active road. A graphic presentation of this new signal is available online.
The revised school bus policy also requires that school districts provide and document training to all students, not just those who ride the bus. School districts were required to implement the revised policy on Jan. 1.
State Superintendent June Atkinson asked all parents of students who ride the bus to make sure their children understand the safety procedures at the school bus stop, including the driver’s crossing signal, and to review basic safety rules with their children.
“Students must play a bigger role in their personal safety,” Atkinson said. “They can’t take for granted vehicles will stop just because the bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.” She said she also appreciated the support of school principals as they work to make sure that the message of school bus safety reaches all students.
Visit the NC School Bus Safety website for more information on this policy or school bus safety in North Carolina.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.