This year thousands of children in the four states area will ride a school bus to and from school. Rarely is a second thought given about whether the child who leaves home for the school bus stop that morning will be there when the parents return home in the evening. Until the unthinkable happens - a parent receives a call and learns that their child has been injured-or worse, killed, while loading or unloading from their school bus. It is an unthinkable tragedy, something no parent should ever have to face. Unfortunately, it is a tragedy that happens every school year.
The most dangerous part of the school bus ride is the bus stop. During the 2008-20009 school year, 17 children in 11 states were killed when loading or unloading from their school bus. This number was more than three times higher than the previous school year, and does not include the many injuries that also occurred. Most loading and unloading incidents occur when the child is struck by their own school bus or by an inattentive passing motorist. Young children are not the only victims of these tragedies. Over half of the children killed in 2008-2009 were over 10 years old. These numbers are unacceptable. Teachers, bus drivers, motorists and parents must do all they can to ensure the safety of children who ride the bus.
Here are some things you should know to keep children safe this school year.
1. Danger Zone: The danger zone is the area on all sides of the bus where children are in most danger of being hit. Children should stay at least 10 feet , or 10 big steps, away from the sides, back and front of the bus. Stay out of the danger zone except when loading and unloading from the bus. Once you have unloaded from the bus and left the danger zone, do not return to the bus, even to get something you left behind. The driver may not see you and may begin moving the bus. If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver before you pick it up so they will know where you are.
2. When waiting for the bus to arrive, stay on the sidewalk or if no sidewalk, a safe place away from the road. Keep away from the bus until the driver gives the signal that it is ok to board.
3. If you must cross the street, wait for your bus driver to give you the signal that it is safe to cross; when crossing the street, always look both ways. Walk, don’t run. Cross in front of the bus only, never cross behind.
4. Never listen to your ipod, talk on a cell phone, or text while loading or unloading a bus or while crossing the street. You can become distracted from what is going on around you, you cannot hear the bus driver’s instructions, or may not her approaching traffic.
There are things you as parents can do to help ensure your child’s safe journey to and from school.
1. Back packs and coats - no loose draw strings or long straps that can get caught in a closing door or handrail and your child can be dragged by the bus.
2. Do not allow your children to be at the bus stop alone. If you cannot accompany your child to the bus stop, arrange for a sibling or buddy to accompany them, or have them go in a group.
3. Talk to your children about safe school bus loading and unloading procedures.
4. If you think your school bus in a dangerous place, talk to your school office of transportation director about changing the location.
1. Watch for children at school bus stops.
2. Motorists coming to a school bus from either direction must stop when the bus displays flashing red warning lights and extends the stop signal arm. These signals mean that children are getting on and off the bus. The bus may be blocking your view of a child about to cross the street.
3. Motorists may not pass until the school bus resumes moving again or until the driver clearly signals you that it is okay to proceed.
4. Passing a school bus while children are loading and unloading is illegal. In Missouri, drivers can have their driver’s license suspended for passing a stopped school bus with their red lights flashing and their stop arms extended, even if it is a first time offense. If a child is injured or killed by a passing motorist, that motorist is guilty of a felony and may serve time in prison.
There is no greater gift than our children. Help keep them safe this school year and let’s all practice school bus safety. If you would like to know more about school bus safety and find out where to get free information about this important topic, contact us at Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci.
Joplin Missouri Injury Attorney
Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci
510 West 6th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64801
866-836-0100 toll free