Every day millions of students use school buses as transportation to and from school. Although school buses represent the safest form of highway transportation, there are a number of safety factors which both student and drivers should be aware. Hoping to ensure school bus safety, Stokes County Sheriff Mike Marshall encourages caution whenever school buses are present.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 134 people die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year and more school-aged pedestrians have been killed during the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. than any other time of day.
“Children are often eager to get off the school bus because they are excited to tell their parents about all the fun they had at school that day,” Marshall said. “It is crucial that parents re-enforce the school bus safety rules children learn at school.”
Marshall also suggests parents drive their child’s bus route with them to practice the proper safety precautions they can take to help ensure their child enjoys a safe ride to and from school.
The Sheriff encourages parents to discuss safety measures with their children.
For students, arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early. While the bus is approaching make sure to stand at least three giant steps away from the curb, wait until the bus has come to a complete stop, the door opens, and the bus driver says that it’s OK to board. Always walk on the sidewalk when preparing to cross the street near a bus. Make eye contact with the driver so you are sure he or she sees you and never walk behind the bus. Marshall suggests using the handrail when entering and exiting the bus and take extra precautions to make sure that clothing with drawstrings and book bags don’t get caught in the hand rail or door. Never stop to pick something up that you have dropped when a bus is stopped. Tell the bus driver or wait until the bus has driven off to avoid not being seen by the driver.
For motorists, Marshall said to remember that children are unpredictable in their actions. Take extreme caution when traveling in a school zone. If there are no sidewalks, drive cautiously. Be more alert to the possibility of children walking in the road. Slow down and prepare to stop whenever you see yellow school bus lights flashing and never pass a school bus when there are flashing red lights and the stop arm is extended because this is a sign that children are getting on or off the bus. Marshall said motorists must wait until the red lights stop flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.
Marshall offered safety tips for youngsters walking back and forth to school this year.
“Parents can teach their children the following safety tips which will inform them of the danger signs to watch for and avoid when walking between school and home,” Marshall said. “Drivers should be
cautious of children walking back and forth to school. We can all learn from safety tips and abide by them to make Stokes County safer for all.”
• While walking, remember to always travel with a friend. Two heads are better than one, especially if there’s an emergency.
• A stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well.
• You or your friend must never take candy, money, medicine or anything else from a stranger.
• If a stranger in a car asks you questions, don’t get close to the car (you could get pulled in) – and never get in the car.
• Strangers can be very tricky – they can ask you to walk with them to “show” them something; they can offer to pay for your video game, or ask you to help them find a lost dog or cat. Don’t be fooled!
• Don’t tell anyone your name or address when you’re walking and don’t think that because someone knows your name that they know you – they may just be looking at your name printed on your lunch box, school bag or T-shirt.
• If you think you’re in any danger, yell, and run to the nearest store or “safe house” or back to school.
• Always tell your parents or teacher if a stranger has approached you.
“By taking the time to carefully prepare your child on how to handle these situations, you can insure your child’s safety whether they are on their way to school or home, playing on a playground or riding their bikes,” Marshall said.