Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Bus safety rules save children’s lives

Aug 24, 2018
Photo by: John Butters Drivers are encouraged to show patience with school bus drivers as they pick up and drop off children.

By John Butters, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Now that school has started, motorists need to be aware of the flashing lights of school buses on local highways and streets.

“The biggest threat to our schoolchildren’s safety is driver inattention and that includes all kinds of activities,” said Woody Harden, Transportation Director for Washington Schools. Harden has been in the school transportation business for 26 years.

Harden said those activities include more than just using cellphones.

“I have seen people putting on their makeup, reading newspapers and books or just looking away from the road,” he said.

Washington is fortunate in that it has had very few accidents, Harden said, but that doesn’t mean drivers should relax.

“We live in a rural area so we don’t have a lot of traffic in a congested area. Most of our accidents are due to inclement weather,” he said.

For Harden and other transportation directors, the worst offense drivers commit is the stop-arm violation.

“We haven’t had many here in Washington, maybe three to five per year,” he said.

The buses have cameras, so offenders can be identified.

There are a couple of things that every motorist should do to facilitate safety for school children, Harden says.

“Put your phone away. Put it in the back seat. Pay attention to the road,” he said.

He also asks motorists to be aware of children standing along the road while they wait for the bus. If motorists feel inconvenienced on their daily commute by frequent bus stops he suggests they adjust their schedule.

“Change your time by just five minutes and you’ll be surprised how much difference it can make,” he said.

Parents should remind their children that they should not cross the road to board a bus until the bus driver signals it is safe.

“The bus drivers can see traffic better than the children. They should wait for direction,” he said.

In Mt. Pleasant, Transportation Director Ted Carlson said his pet peeve involves people running the stop-arm. He said that those violations will result in a serious action. “It’s not a question of if, but when,” he said.

One national source said a one-day measurement during the school year recorded 77,000 violation in the U.S.

Carlson, who has 18 years of experience in school transportation, said his school buses also carry cameras that record not only the offender’s license plate, but also the face of the driver.

He encourages drivers to show patience with school bus drivers. “It is a tough job. They have to make turns with the bus and it is a lot of stop-and-go driving. We try not to inconvenience people. They try to let drivers pass when it’s safe to do so. But drivers are endangering themselves and others when they drive in an unsafe manner,” he said.

He encourages parents to discuss proper behavior on the bus so that the driver is not distracted.

“The bus is an extension of the classroom. If you shouldn’t do it in class, you shouldn’t do it on the bus,” he said.

Parents should also remind children of the “safe zone” when waiting for the bus.

“The safe zone is five large steps away from the bus at all times. Children should never chase the bus or ever climb under the bus. A lot of children are hurt outside the bus,” he said.

Like all transportation directors, Carlson takes safety seriously and ensures that the school’s driver are well trained.

A new bus driver must complete 17 hours of safety training in an online course. They follow that up with another 3 hours of face-to-face training at Southeast Community College. All bus drivers must take a three hour refresher course each year.

Bus drivers are also responsible for daily safety checks. It includes the simple things like adjusting mirrors, checking lights and tires, to the more exacting duties required by the state. “I want all drivers to realize that when they see a school bus, something is going to happen. It is going to stop or it is going to make a turn. They need to be prepared for that,” he said.

When they see the flashing yellow lights, they need to get ready to stop, he said.

“Don’t try to pass a stopped school bus that is flashing yellow. The red light will come on within seconds. It is better to be safe than sorry,” he said.

Some tips for children include the following:

Getting on the Bus:

• When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness

• Do not stray onto the street, alleys or private property

• Line up away from the street or road as the bus approaches

• Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before approaching the bus

• Use the handrail when boarding

Behavior on the Bus:

• If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up

• Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver

• Stay in your seat

• Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window

• Keep aisles clear of books and bags

• Get your belongings together before reaching your stop

• Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat

 

More school-age pedestrians have been killed during the hour before and after school than any other time of day, according to NHTSA. And, although drivers are required by law to stop for a school bus when it’s loading or unloading passengers, they often don’t. Children should not rely on them to do so.

Tips for parents include:

• Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives

• Make sure drivers can see the kids at your bus stop

• Teach kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and board the bus one at a time

• Teach kids to wait for the school bus to come to a complete stop before getting off and not to walk behind the bus

• If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe.

• Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street

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