8/24/15 School Bus Safety Smarts

School Bus Safety Smarts
The Times-News 8/24/15  
Reprinted with permission.


   Most motorists who meet stopped or stopping school buses in North Carolina stop themselves, as state law requires, the N.C. Highway Patrol says. But some don’t, and the results can be tragic. Since 1999, 13 North Carolina children have been killed getting on or off stopped school buses. In 2014, 3,153 vehicles across the state passed stopped school buses on a single day, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

More than 14,000 school buses travel North Carolina highways daily. They’re the safest way to get children to and from school. High schoolers are about 50 times safer on the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. Statistically, children are safer, too, on the bus than riding with parents.

“As we begin the school year, our troopers will be closely monitoring school buses,” said Col. Bill Grey, Commander of the N.C. Highway Patrol. “Our No. 1 goal is to ensure the safety of the public, but particularly our children. To accomplish this goal, we must work together to keep our schoolchildren safe and to educate all drivers on the importance of school bus safety.”

THE LAW

  • DRIVERS GOING EITHER DIRECTION MUST STOP WHEN A SCHOOL BUS IS STOPPED to let children off unless it’s on a highway divided by a median or a four- or more lane road with a center turning lane.
  • DRIVERS ARE TO REMAIN STOPPED until the bus has finished dropping children off and begun to move again.

PENALTIES

  • Drivers convicted of passing a stopped school bus face a $500 FINE AND FIVE POINTS on their driver’s license.
  • A driver who passes a stopped school bus and hits someone will be charged with a CLASS I FELONY AND BE FINED AT LEAST $1,000.
  • If the victim dies, the penalty increases to a CLASS H FELONY AND FINE OF $2,500.

TIPS FOR CHILDREN

  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it’s okay before stepping onto the bus.
  • If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
  • Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
  • Never walk behind the bus. › Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.

A TIP FOR PARENTS

  • Teach children to follow these common-sense practices to make school bus transportation safer.

TIPS FOR DRIVERS

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
  • Slow down. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
  • Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
  • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

   For more information, visit www.ncbussafety.org/stoparm/