Editorial: Play it safe around school busesPublished 9:28am Tuesday, September 10, 2013
As the first week of school for most area students is done, it’s an important time for adults and children to take a moment to remember we all play a part in making sure students are safe when traveling to and from school each day.
Last year in Minnesota, there were 553 bus crashes that resulted in seven deaths (none of which were student bus occupants) and 211 injuries (of which 65 were student bus occupants). In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 trips daily.
School buses are the safest mode of transportation for children — children are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In Minnesota, motorists must stop for red flashing lights and when stop arms are extended — both when driving behind a bus and when coming toward a bus on undivided roads.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety offers these tips for pedestrians and motorists, and for parents to review with their school-age children:
• When getting off a bus, look to be sure no vehicles are passing on the shoulder (side of the road).
• Before crossing the street, take five giant steps out from the front of the bus, and make eye contact with the driver.
• Wait for the driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.
• Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.
• Cross only at intersections or crosswalks and obey all traffic signs and signals.
• Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you and clearly show intention to cross.
• Do not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is too close or moving too fast to stop safely.
• Continue to look for traffic as you cross; as distracted drivers are not looking for pedestrians.
• Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.
• Red flashing lights on buses indicate students are either entering or exiting the bus.
• Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.) — but they should remain alert for children.
• Altering a route or schedule to avoid a bus is one way motorists can help improve safety. In doing so, motorists won’t find themselves behind a bus and as a result, potentially putting children at risk.
• Watch for school crossing patrols and pedestrians. Reduce speeds in and around school zones.
• Watch and stop for pedestrians — the law applies to all street corners, for both marked and unmarked crosswalks (all street corners) — every corner is a crosswalk.