August 20, 2015
As a brand new school year begins, thousands of students will again be boarding the bus to head to school.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminds parents, students and motorists all to be alert and to put safety first in school zones and near school bus stops.
School buses are the safest means of transportation for getting to and from school and keep an estimated 17.3 million cars off the roads every year. Even so, students need to be careful when entering the “school bus danger zone” – 10 feet in front, behind or on either side of the bus. In addition, motorists need to be alert and always stop for a school bus when flashing lights are illuminated.
According to NHTSA data, from 2006-2015 (the latest data available), 44 school-aged children and teens between the ages of 5-19 were killed in school zones traveling to or from school.* Out of that number, 77 percent (34) were pedestrians either struck by a school bus or another vehicle.
In addition, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services’ 2019 Stop Arm survey showed that 130,963 school bus drivers reported that 95,319 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day. Throughout a 180-day school year, these sample results point to more than 17 million violations among America’s driving public.
NHTSA provides the following safety tips:
Stand at least 6 feet (three giant steps) from the approaching school bus while waiting at the bus stop.
When the school bus arrives, wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay to get on or off. Use the handrails to avoid falling.
Never walk behind a school bus. If you must cross the street in front of the bus, walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least 10 feet (five giant steps) in front of the bus before crossing. Make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see that you’re crossing to avoid the danger zone. If you drop something near the school bus, like a phone or book, the safest thing is to tell the bus driver right away. You should not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see you.
Always watch for oncoming traffic when approaching or leaving the bus.
When driving in neighborhoods with bus stops, schools and school zones, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
Slow down. Look for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
Remember, children do not easily estimate vehicle speeds and often misjudge when it is safe to cross the street when a vehicle is approaching.
Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Obey 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.
*NHTSA school zone data was based on child and teen deaths that occurred between the hours of 6-8:59 a.m. and 2-4:59 p.m.