Now that the new school year has begun, it is time to adapt to a new driving routine. With school buses and school zones, the morning commute will take longer and drivers will need to take extra caution with school children crossing and standing by the road. Thanks to their construction, school buses are the safest form of transportation in the US and, once children have boarded the school bus, their chances of surviving a collision are 8 times greater than in a passenger vehicle. The danger for school children lies in the period before boarding and after exiting the school bus.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, on average, 7 school children are killed in school bus collisions but 17 are killed while getting on and off school buses. Most of the children killed are in the 5 to 7 age group and, according to the NHTSA, they were killed because they:
- hurry to get on or off the bus,
- act before they think and have little experience with traffic,
- assume motorists will see them and will wait for them to cross,
- don't always stay within the bus driver's sight, or
- drop something as they get off the bus and run into the path of the bus to pick it up.
Drivers need to:
- Remember there will be groups of kids crossing and standing by the side of the roads. They will be harder to see as the days grow shorter.
- Remember that children are always unpredictable. Don't assume they will see your vehicle and stop for you.
- School bus stops and school zones are going to add time to your morning commute so leave earlier and give yourself more time. Late, impatient drivers tend to take more chances.
- When a school bus ahead activates its amber flashing lights, it is about to stop for a pick-up. Don't rush to pass a school bus when its amber lights are flashing because kids ahead may be trying to cross the road at the last minute before the bus arrives.
- On undivided two-way roads, traffic in both directions must come to a complete stop when approaching a stopped school bus with its red flashing and boarding arm extended.
- On divided highways, traffic traveling in the opposite direction doesn't have to stop but you should always exercise caution.
- When stopped for a school bus, remain stopped until the bus driver has turned off the red flashing lights, withdrawn the boarding arm, and started moving.
- During after school hours, before you proceed after stopping for a school bus, be especially watchful for children crossing or walking close to the side of the road. Police will be out in force and fines for speeding in a school zone are normally doubled.
- While driving, don't allow yourself to develop distracting habits such as grooming,eating, talking on cell phones and worst of all, texting. These activities will take your eyes off the road and you may not see a small child until it is too late.
- When driving in neighborhoods, be especially watchful for children walking to the bus stop before backing out of your driveway. Two children a week are killed in the US by being run over by a vehicle that is backing up.
The National Safety Commission.com works to increase awareness of important safety issues, particularly those that deal with highway and traffic safety information. Our mission is to make consumers more vigilant and understand that "safety is no accident," through education and outreach programs.
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