School bus safety is every driver’s concern

Published 10:44 am Monday, December 3, 2018

This past week in Washington County a woman was charged after a 10-year-old boy was hit by a car while boarding a school bus. School bus drivers not only in Washington County, but in Carter County and Elizabethton, say their number one nemesis is people running their stop signs.
Across the nation, 35,000 pedestrians were injured in 2105 and more than 5,000 killed, according to the National Traffic Safety Administration. More than one-fifth of children 14 and younger killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians. We all know in the age of cellphones both distracted driving and distracted walking can increase the risk of an accident.
Drivers must be extra cautious, particularly when they know student pedestrian traffic will be high before or after school. While pedestrian safety is important, as any bus driver will tell you, motorists seem to completely ignore the rules of the road when dealing with school buses. Each year, about 17,000 children suffer injuries associated with school buses. They can occur when getting on, getting off, or even waiting for the bus. While experts say most of those injuries are minor ones, drivers who don’t know the rules of the road increase the risk that a child might be making an unexpected emergency room visit.
The biggest rule to keep in mind is to never pass a school bus with flashing red lights until children are safely off the street or road and the school bus lights have stopped flashing, even if the stop sign isn’t out yet. Flashing yellow lights mean the bus is about to stop to pick up or let off students. Drivers can still pass the bus at this point but must be ready to stop immediately — lights often change to red quickly.
While most know red lights mean the bus is picking up or dropping off children, many motorists are unclear about when, or if, they have to stop. Drivers must stop in both directions for a bus when traveling on a two-lane road with a turning lane. On a four-lane road or a divided highway, traffic traveling the opposite direction of the bus does not need to stop, but both lanes of traffic going the same direction of the bus must stop. In Tennessee, motorists who do not properly stop for a school bus can be fined not less than $250 nor more than $1,000.
According to school officials, most accidents occur when children are crossing the street, so drivers must always be on the lookout for kids entering or exiting a bus. And, because buses make frequent stops, drivers should maintain a safe distance at all times and stop with plenty of room to spare. Safety experts recommend drivers leave at least 10 feet between themselves and a school bus to make sure children have enough room to safely enter and exit.
This is also a good time for parents to remind their children to pay attention while getting on and off the school bus. They should cross the street where the bus driver can see them and wait until the driver signals that it is safe to cross. From the sidewalk, children should wait until the bus is fully stopped and they are given the OK from the bus driver to board.
We hope this quick refresher on school bus rules will help drivers locally be just a little more adept when sharing the road this school year. Safety on the road is a shared responsibility, and if everyone follows the rules, they will get to where they are going safely.

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