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Drew: Back To School Safety: Bus Stops

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Schools nationwide are now open again for another academic year. Students are arriving at their schools using a variety of transportation methods from walking, riding bikes, skateboards, driving cars, scooters and many are arriving in their parent’s car or carpooling, but thousands more are riding their school district’s school buses.
In fact, school buses are considered the safest method of transportation. They are considered 70 times safer than traveling by car. These safety figures are rooted in their industry’s studies which have contributed to improved school bus design, along with the inclusion of many safety features and technologies.  Some of these safety improvement features are more advanced mirrors, videos and bus sensors. Yet, these features combined do little to impact the most dangerous aspect of school bus transportation – loading and unloading. Outside of the school bus poses the highest risk for children. This is why it is referred to as the “danger zone.”
This area of the school bus is coined the “danger zone” because it’s an area students cannot be directly seen by the driver or often other drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identifies the “danger zone” to be the area 10 feet in front of the school bus where the driver may be too high to see a child, 10 feet on either side of the school bus where a child may be in the driver’s blind spot and the area behind the school bus.
This zone is such a safety risk manufacturers have developed earlier safety equipment such as stop arms, amber and red warning lights, strobes, driver LED alert signage and even the bus’s color, “a bright yellow.” With all these safety measures school buses still remain almost invisible.
Drivers hit them fairly frequently and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) reports an illegal school bus passing survey revealed almost 84,000 illegal passes in 38 states in a single day. This figure equals to over 15 million in one school year! Recent national and local media outlets have featured several recent stories with videos showing drivers in different regions of the country illegally passing a school bus, barely missing a student.
Unfortunately, young children are at a greater risk of being struck. Half of the pedestrian fatalities in school bus related incidents were children between the ages of 5 and 7 years old.
Where this article identifies the school bus danger zone: loading and unloading, next week’s article will discuss how to improve school bus perimeter safety for students. In the meanwhile, this topic is too critical, so make sure you Keep an Eye on Safety by speaking with and cautioning your child about this “danger zone” if they ride the bus.  Also as a driver, make sure you adhere to all the traffic safety laws and regulations relative to a school bus stop.