September is a time for new drivers to learn to interact with school buses and for all drivers to familiarize themselves with the law concerning school buses and safe driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 19 school-age children die in school transportation-related traffic accidents every year. Most of the victims are between the ages of 5 and 7 and are actually outside the bus at the time of the accident. Accidents of this type are so common that the Illinois State Board of Education refers to the area around the bus as the “death zone.” The problem comes from other motorists who fail to stop for the flashing red lights and stop arm of the bus, as required by Illinois law.
The actions of a child can be unpredictable. Children in the most affected age range often fail to recognize the dangers of approaching vehicles. They have short attention spans and can easily start crossing the street without looking for oncoming traffic. Even older children can easily fall into this trap. Vehicles traveling in both directions on a two lane road should come to a complete stop at least 20 feet before reaching a school bus that is stopped to pick up or drop off students. Children may assume that all vehicles will obey this law and not look before crossing the street.
There are other things that drivers should be aware of when encountering school buses. School buses are required to stop at railroad crossings, even when no students are on board. Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as motorists when it comes to buses. On one-way streets, all vehicles must stop for a bus that is loading or unloading. Even if the road is four lanes wide, the vehicles in every lane are required to stop 20 feet behind the bus so children can cross.
According to the NHTSA, school buses reduce the number of cars on the roads around schools by 17.3 million per year, nationwide. They are the safest way for children to get to school and back home again. The few extra moments it takes to stop and allow children to safely enter and exit the bus are well worth the sacrifice.
Source: Morris Daily Herald, “School bell should be signal for drivers to be more cautious,” 18 August 2012