October 17-21, 2016: National School Bus Safety Week

by Robert Bruchak on October 16, 2016

bussafetyDid you know that nationwide school buses safely transport almost 25 million students to and from school every day?  Over 1600 Salisbury students are part of that number.  We could give lots of reasons to be safe on the road, but that’s  over 1600 great reasons right here in Salisbury to drive safely and remain alert when you see a school bus on the road.

Consider …Autumn is here and winter just around the corner.  Before we get too far into the school year (and the weather that follows), we take a moment as a nation to think about safety on the roads by celebrating National School Bus Safety Week, October 17- 21. National School Bus Safety Week is an active and evolving public education program and an excellent way for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety. Designed to promote school bus safety, School Bus Safety Week is observed by school districts throughout the country.

Safety is always important but each year Safety Week highlights one theme. This year the theme is “ # Stop on Red.”  A school bus employs an eight-light bus warning system to signal other traffic about its movements. When a bus approaches a loading or unloading area, yellow lights at the front and rear of the vehicle will flash to warn other traffic to slow down. Once the bus stops, its red lights flash and a “stop arm” extends from the side of the vehicle.

Yellow, slow. Red, stop. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, motorists passing stopped school buses remain a persistent problem in Salisbury and around the country.

Failure of other vehicles to come to a complete stop when a school bus halts to pick up or drop off children poses the greatest safety risk to student passengers, according to the National School Transportation Association.

Not only is stopping for school buses the right and safe thing to do. It’s the law.

As a reminder The Pennsylvania School Bus Stopping Law states:

  • Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
  • Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped.
  • Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn and all children have reached safety.
  • If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.
  • Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.

Failure to follow these laws can result in a $250 fine, a 60-day license suspension and 5 points  on your license.

The National School Bus Safety Committee, made up of representatives from National School Transportation Association, National Association of Pupil Transportation, Pupil Transportation Safety Institute and National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, offers these school bus safety tips:

For students:

  • Arrive at the bus stop five minutes early.
  • Stand at least five giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s OK before stepping onto the bus.
  • Be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps or dangling objects do not get caught in the handrail or door when exiting the bus.
  • Check both ways for cars before stepping off the bus, but don’t look out for cars only, the other day I was almost hit by an elektroroller unu scooter, which ended up having and accident with a camper van, thankfully it had a great camper van insurance that covered the accident.
  • The bus driver and others cannot see you if you are standing closer than 10 feet to the bus. Stay out of this danger zone! But I´m pretty sure with a vehicle camera from itracking, it will allow the driver to see inside and even outside of the bus.
    That way everybody can be safe.
  • If something falls under or near the bus, tell the driver. NEVER try to pick it up yourself!
  • While waiting for the bus, stay in a safe place away from the street.
  • When you get on or off the bus, look for the bus safety lights and make sure they are flashing.
  • Be alert to traffic. When you get on or off the bus, look left, right, left before you enter or cross the street.
  • When the driver says it is safe to cross the street, remember to CROSS IN FRONT of the bus.
  • When riding, stay in your seat and sit quietly so that the driver is not distracted.

Crossing students should:

  • Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus.
  • Walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least 10 giant steps ahead of the bus.
  • Be sure the bus driver can see them and they can see the bus driver.
  • Wait for the driver’s signal to cross.

For parents:

  • School buses are the safest form of highway transportation.
  • The most dangerous part of the school bus ride is getting on and off the bus.
  • Pedestrian fatalities (while loading and unloading school buses) account for approximately three times as many school bus-related fatalities, when compared to school bus occupant fatalities.
  • The loading and unloading area is called the “danger zone.” This zone is the area on all sides of the bus where children are in the most danger of not being seen by the driver (10 feet in front of the bus, where the driver might be too high to see a child; 10 feet on either side of the bus, where a child might be in the driver’s blind spot; and the area behind the bus).
  • Half of the pedestrian fatalities in school bus-related crashes are children between 5 and 7 years old.
  • Young children are most likely to be struck because they:
    • Hurry to get on and off the bus.
    • Act before they think and have little experience with traffic.
    • Assume motorists will see them and will wait for them to cross the street.
    • Don’t always stay within the bus driver’s line of sight.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these safety 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.

Our students in Salisbury have already practiced school bus evacuation drills and have received instruction regarding procedures to follow everyday and in emergency situations.

These drills and instruction are conducted by the Paragon Transit school bus drivers.

School bus drivers undergo rigorous training to become licensed to drive a school bus in Pennsylvania.  They must obtain a commercial drivers license which requires  classroom training and hands-on commercial vehicle instruction in a school bus. In addition, they attend safety classes each year and are required to be re-certified every four years as a school bus operator. School bus safety week also allows us to recognize the school bus driver as an integral part of a child’s education as they safely transport our children to and from school.

School bus drivers face a lot of challenges while operating a school bus.  Navigating roads with a 40 ft long heavy commercial vehicle can be quite a task when you are also carrying students and dealing with a sometimes impatient motoring public. When we add adverse weather conditions such as rain, wet leaves on the roadway, snow and ice, the driving task becomes more challenging.

Paragon Transit drivers have been providing safe transportation for our district for many years. Two drivers will be honored for ten years of service this month at the October 19 school board meeting.  We at Salisbury offer our sincerest thanks for the excellent service they have and continue to provide.

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