Child safety emphasized as part of school bus safety week – Examiner Online | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

A Bellefontaine City Schools bus makes its way along Ludlow Road this week. (EXAMINER PHOTO | Mandy Loehr)

National School Bus Safety Week, recognized earlier this month, is a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring the safety of our schoolchildren during their daily commute.

Incidents of illegal school bus passing pose a significant threat to the well-being of children and their caretakers.

Since January 2022, officers of the Bellefontaine Police Department have issued a total of nine citations to motorists for illegally passing a school bus. These incidents serve as stark reminders of the dangers that children face while entering or exiting school buses.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, illegal school bus passing is a nationwide concern, and they are sharing critical statistics and facts to raise awareness about this real and potentially deadly danger.

In every state across the United States, it is illegal for vehicle drivers to pass a school bus while the school bus stop-arm is extended and its red lights are flashing.

Vehicle drivers must always come to a complete stop when a school bus’s stop-arm is extended and its red lights are flashing.

Sadly, statistics reveal that from 2011 to 2020, there were 1,009 fatal school-transportation-related crashes, leading to the tragic deaths of 1,125 people of all ages. This averages to 113 fatalities per year.

The data also highlights that pedestrians, particularly school-age children, are disproportionately affected, with 183 pedestrian fatalities compared to 113 fatalities among occupants of school buses during the same period.

While school buses are statistically the safest way to transport school children, dangers still arise. From 2000 to 2021, there were 53 fatalities in crashes involving drivers illegally passing a stopped school bus, averaging 2.4 fatalities per year. Shockingly, almost half of these fatalities, 25, were pedestrians aged 18 or younger.

To address this issue, NHTSA urges motorists to follow essential safety guidelines, which include coming to a complete stop when a school bus’s stop-arm is extended, adhering to traffic signs and signals, and never passing a school bus on the right side where children enter or exit.

The most dangerous part of a school bus ride is getting on and off the bus, often referred to as the “Danger Zone.” This includes areas around the bus where the driver may not have a clear line of sight, such as the 10 feet in front of the bus, 10 feet on either side, and behind the school bus. Young children, in particular, are at risk in these zones due to their tendency to act impulsively and lack experience with traffic.

Parents and caregivers can play a significant role in enhancing the safety of school bus transportation. They should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early and ensure that children stand at least 10 feet away from the edge of the road.

Additionally, children should wait for the bus to stop, the door to open, and the driver’s signal before boarding. It is crucial to check that clothing or bags with straps do not get caught on the bus when exiting, and always walk in front of the bus, never behind it.

Motorists are reminded to slow down and prepare to stop when they see a school bus’s yellow flashing lights, only proceeding when the red lights are off, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus is in motion. Passing a school bus on the right side where children enter and exit is illegal and dangerous.

During National School Bus Safety Week and throughout the school year, it’s essential for the community to come together, adhere to traffic laws, and prioritize the safety of our children. By raising awareness about the dangers of illegal school bus passing, we can help save lives and ensure that every child’s journey to and from school is a safe one.

As the statistics show, children’s lives are on the line, and our collective commitment to school bus safety is paramount.

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