With school in session in many counties and about to begin in other areas, please take the time to refresh your knowledge about laws and safety involving school buses.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, four to six school-aged children die each year on school transportation vehicles. However, school buses are reportedly the safest form of travel to arrive and depart from school.
The Texas Education Agency says that more than 42,000 school buses transport approximately 1.5 million Texas children every school day.
School buses are highly recognizable so that they are very visible on the roads. They also include many safety features including flashing red lights, cross view mirrors, and stop-sign arms, protective seating, high crush standards, and rollover protection.
Tips for parents whose children are riding the bus are provided by NHTSA. These tips advise children to arrive at bus stops at least five minutes early and to stand six feet away from the curb. Six feet is approximately three large steps. Remind children not to play or run near a bus stop.
Children should wait to enter the bus until it has made a complete stop, the door has opened, and the driver confirms with them that it is okay to enter the bus door. Using the provided handrails can also prevent children from falling.
Walking behind a school bus is not recommended. Instead, walk in front of a school bus, leaving 10 feet between the passenger and the bus, approximately five giant steps. Keeping eye contact with the bus driver helps them to see the passenger. If something is accidentally dropped near the bus, it is advised to let the driver know before attempting to retrieve it. This helps the driver to be aware that there is a child close to the bus.
Always be aware when driving in town during the school year as students may be walking or on their bicycles. Drive slower in school zones and residential areas.
Note that the “flashing signal light system” on school buses is to alert motorists of passenger activity. Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is about to stop to load or unload children. When the yellow lights are flashing, slow down and prepare to stop.
Red flashing lights, along with the extended stop-sign arm, means that the bus has stopped to load or unload passengers and vehicles traveling in either direction on the road are required by law to stop, operate visual signals, and wait until the lights and sign are withdrawn and the bus has begun to move again before motorist begin driving again.
It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is dropping off or picking up students. This protects the passengers who are exiting and entering the school bus.
It is stated by the Texas DPS that if the lanes are separated by an intervening space or physical barrier, only the motorist traveling in the same direction as the bus are required to stop.
“Motorists should always be alert and practice safe driving habits when traveling near school buses or anywhere school children gather, including bus stops. Texas parents can rest assured that DPS will not tolerate those who recklessly endanger children by ignoring the law,” says DPS Director Steven McCraw.
The Texas Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath adds, “Ensuring our students have a safe trip to and from school is a commitment the Texas Education Agency shares with the Texas Department of Public Safety. We commend the dedication of our Texas Highway Patrol, as well as local law enforcment…in working to keep our students safe.”
Please be safe this school year and always watch for children on the road, on the sidewalks, or at bus stops. Children sometimes also dart across the roads without checking both directions when trying to get to school. Motorists should always keep watch of what and who is around them.