Most of those killed are pedestrians, who range in age from five to seven years old. They are hit in the danger zone around the truck, either by a passing vehicle or by the school truck itself.
It is illegal for a car to pass a bus with its red light flashing. Young children are most likely to be hit because they hurry to get on or off the truck, act before they think and have little experience with traffic, assume motorists will see them and will wait for them to cross, or they don’t always stay within the bus driver’s sight.
A few safety steps you can take are to supervise kids to make sure they get to the stop on time, wait far away from the road, and avoid rough play. Teach your child to ask the driver for help if he drops something near the truck.
If a child stoops to pick up something, the driver cannot see him and could potentially hit the child with the vehicle. A book bag or backpack helps keep loose items together.
Make sure clothing has no loose drawstrings and backpack straps are short, so they don’t get caught in the handrail or truck door. Encourage safe school bus loading and unloading.
If you think a vehicle stop is in a dangerous place, talk with your school office or transportation director about changing the location. Teach your child to get on and off the truck safely too.
When loading, children should stay away from the danger zone and wait for the driver’s signal. They should board the truck in single file instead of all racing to get in first.
When unloading, teach the kids to look before stepping off the bus to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder. If no cars are present, they can then move away from the truck.
Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the vehicle, or until the driver’s face can be seen. Wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross.
Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the truck to make sure traffic is stopped and continue to watch for traffic when crossing. Motorists should be alert, and should never pass a school bus when its lights are flashing.
Children are at greatest risk when they are getting on or off the truck. In neighborhoods, near schools, and at vehicle stops, drivers need to take special care because kids do not behave like adults.
Elementary school children become easily distracted and may start across the street without warning. Small kids may not understand the danger of moving vehicles, cannot judge vehicle speed or distance, or may be blocked from view by the bus.
Most importantly, children expect vehicles to stop for them at the vehicle stop. Drivers should learn and follow the school vehicle laws for motorists in their state.
Laws exist to protect children getting on and off the truck and to protect people from a tragedy. Check with your school transportation office or police department for more information on your state’s laws.
A few standard rules are that motorists coming to a vehicle from either direction must stop when the truck displays flashing red warning lights and extends the stop signal arm. These signals show that kids are getting on or off the bus.
Vehicles may not pass until the flashing red lights and signals are turned off. Drivers traveling in the same direction as the vehicle are always required to stop.
In some states, drivers moving in the opposite direction on a divided roadway are also required to stop. Check the law in your state.
Never pass on the right side of the vehicle, where children enter or exit. This is illegal and can have tragic results.
Violation of these laws can result in a citation and fine. In many places, vehicle drivers can report passing vehicles and you will receive a citation in the mail.
Tom Selwick is a public safety representative for 25 years and has authored hundreds of articles relating to public safety and road signs. He has worked in public safety for years promoting safe transportation practices.