Back to School Means School Bus Safety
It is the time of year that kids dread and parents love. It’s back-to-school time. As teachers all over the Tampa Bay Region of Florida prepare their classrooms to welcome students into the 2019-2020 school year, it is also time to prepare children and others for another part of the school experience; the appearance of school buses on the road. While school buses rank among the safest ways to travel, when compared to walking, bicycling or even taking the family car to school, accidents involving school buses do sometimes occur and work must be done to prevent them.
In fact, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the number of accidents involving school buses seems to be rising statewide. In 2015, there were 2,698 accidents involving school buses in Florida. And many of those accidents are not the fault of the school bus drivers. In far too many cases, other drivers on the road become impatient and will go out of their way to pass a school bus or fail to stop at a school bus stop sign at a bus stop.
Going Back to School Safely
School and transportation officials throughout the region are taking the opportunity to remind everyone on the road to be on alert for the presence of school buses on the road as schools open and children go back to class. They want to remind All drivers that it is illegal to fail to obey the flashing red lights and the stop sign when a school bus is stopped and that school bus drivers are legally obligated to report those drivers, so you are likely to get caught.
Of course, they want parents to prepare their kids to ride safely, by showing them how to behave while the bus is in motion and showing them what to do when then get on or off the bus. However, they also are asking drivers to be on the lookout for buses and students. They especially want drivers to keep in mind that children’s vision and judgment are still in development, so they sometimes misjudge distances and speeds of oncoming vehicles.
School Bus Danger Zones
When it comes to accidents and school buses, there are two scenarios that stand out in which children are injured by motor vehicles while going to school on the school bus. Fully half of all such accidents occur when they arrive at school, and they are hit by an adult driver who is perhaps dropping their child off at school. Most of the remaining such incidents happen when the child is hit by a school bus that is pulling into or out of the school. These types of accidents happen due to a combination of a child moving unpredictably because of their inability to understand traffic patterns and the inability of drivers to keep track of all the pedestrians surrounding their vehicle. Also, large school buses have large blind spots.
To avoid these most common of accidents involving school buses and to reduce the likelihood of injury to a child, children should be instructed properly. They should be told to keep a safe distance from the sides of buses at all times. Also, they should be taught to try to avoid crossing in front of a school bus at all, but when they have to, to only do so at a safe distance. They should also be instructed to attempt to make eye contact with the driver and to make sure the driver knows they are there before beginning to cross. In addition, they should be taught to not panic and to never dart into the street.
There are other ways in which parents can help their children develop good habits that will keep them safe around the school bus. For example, children should be taught to:
- Arrive at the school bus top at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Having to rush is a prime reason children make errors in judgment.
- Never sit on the curb or stand in the roadway while waiting for the bus. Stand well away from the road while waiting.
- When the bus stops, wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross the road or to board the bus.
- When crossing the street, look left, then right, then left again. Make sure the bus driver can see them as they cross the street.
- Never walk behind the school bus.
- Always stay far away from the bus wheels.
- Always use handrails when getting into and out of the bus.
- Secure loose clothing so they don’t snag.
Once they are on the bus, children should know to behave properly, as well. For example, they should never stick any part of their body out of an open bus window. They should keep bags and books with them and out of the bus aisles. It is also important that they stay seated while the bus is in motion. Unless there is an emergency, children should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop to move to the front of the bus to inform the driver of something.
Driving Near School Buses
As noted, when you are driving near a school bus, patience is key. Under Florida law, it is always illegal to pass a school bus on either side when its lights are flashing or the stop sign is up. The only exception to that comes when you are on a road with a physical divider in the center or a highway with a dirt median at least five feet wide and you are traveling in the opposite direction. In every other case, if the bus is stopped and the sign is out, all traffic must stop.
It is also important that all drivers on the road pay close attention and be extra vigilant for kids who may choose to dart into the road. Safety officials also recommend that drivers who know their route will take them through a school zone or a school bus route shut off their cell phone completely, to avoid the temptation of looking at it while driving. The fact of the matter is, our kids can be taught every safety tip there is, but the actions of an impatient, reckless or negligent driver can cause a child to be injured just for going to school.
This is an important time of year for children and their parents. The kids are heading back to school and we all have a responsibility to keep them safe. While everyone agrees that school buses are among the safest forms of transportation there is, the Personal Injury Attorneys at Kemp, Ruge & Green Law Group care about the communities in which we work and we think one child suffering a terrible injury or worse in an accident that is ultimately preventable is one child too many. If we all work together, we can prevent every school bus accident from happening.