Death Zone: ISP Warns Drivers About School Bus, Pedestrian Safety | #schoolsaftey

ILLINOIS — The first days of school can be deadly in Illinois and across the nation, as motorists re-familiarize themselves with laws requiring them to halt when a school bus stop arm is extended.

Many schools across the Chicago area either have started classes or will in the coming days. According to the Illinois State Police, back-to-school season means an increase in pedestrians and bicyclists in traffic during morning and afternoon commutes.


Not only are children walking to school and bus stops, they are also riding bicycles and crossing the street, the state police said in a news release. While crosswalks are designed for pedestrians to cross the road safely, children sometimes walk in-between cars in an unsafe manner, not understanding the potential consequences of their actions.

Across the country in 2021, five school-age children died in school bus crashes, but more than four times that number are killed waiting for or getting on or off the bus, according to the National Safety Council. In 2021 alone, 108 people died in school bus-related accidents — the majority of whom (78) were occupants of the other vehicle involved in the crash.

In Illinois, the National Safety Council reported that five people were killed in 2021 in bus-related crashes, and in every case, the driver was the victim, the data shows. In the same year, 9,700 people nationally were injured in school bus-related crashes — more than double than in 2020, the National Safety Council reported.

Data for school bus-related crashes has not yet been released for 2022 by the National Safety Council.

Illinois is one of 23 states where bus stop-arm cameras are legal, and where school districts and local governments monitor those illegally passing school buses and can issue tickets.
In 2017, more than 104,000 school bus drivers reported more than 77,000 vehicles illegally passing school buses in a single day. At that rate, more than 14 million violations would occur in a single year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Between 2006 and 2015, 102 pedestrians under the age of 18 were killed in school transportation accidents.

ISBE Warns Of School Bus ‘Death Zone’

When it comes to buses, school zones, and safety, some of the biggest concerns involve when buses aren’t even moving. Kids run the greatest risk of being hurt when they’re standing at the bus stop, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. In fact, most children ages 5 to 7 who are injured or killed in bus-related accidents are getting on and off the bus, in an area the board of education has ominously labeled the “Death Zone.”

According to ISBE, “The Danger Zone, also known as the Death Zone, is the area on all sides of the bus where children are in the most danger of being hit. Children should stay 10 feet away from the bus (or as far away as they can) and never go behind it. They should take five giant steps in front of the bus before crossing, so they can be seen by the driver.”

Related: 3 Children Killed Waiting For School Bus; Woman Charged

States across the country have mostly focused on two policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: allowing school districts to use bus cameras to help catch motorists illegally passing stopped school buses, and requiring seat belts.

Illinois does not require seat belts on school buses.

Know The Law In Illinois

Here’s what you need to know — and what you should do — when you see a bus stopped with its flashing lights and extended stop-sign arm, or when you are driving by a school.
In Illinois, all lanes of traffic in both directions must stop when a school bus is stopped to pick up or drop off kids while traveling along a two-lane road. This also applies to one-way streets, no matter how many lanes of traffic.

On a four-lane road with at least two lanes of traffic moving in the opposite direction, only motorists going in the same direction as the bus are required to stop.
Drivers also should stop at least 20 feet from the bus when they see flashing lights and the stop arm extended in order to let students cross the road safely.

School bus drivers also can report the license plate numbers of vehicles that illegally pass them to police. Under state law, the vehicle’s owner must tell authorities who was driving at the time of the infraction or face the charges themselves, according to the Illinois State Police.

Penalties For Violating School Bus Laws

In Illinois, the fine for the first offense of passing a stopped school bus — which used to be $150 — doubled to $300 in 2020. Repeat offenders face a $1,000 fine, as opposed to the previous $500 fine, for a second or subsequent offense. In addition to the fines, the state police say that the ticketed driver will lose driving privileges for three months after the first offense.

Citations for passing a stopped school bus can also affect drivers’ insurance premiums or result in license suspension for those who have previous traffic offenses on their records.

Illinois has created special sanctions for school zone speeding cases that involve injuries or death. Under “Jeff’s Law,” which was passed in 2007, a driver is considered to have been driving recklessly if he or she was speeding in a school zone and someone was hurt or killed. Another law stipulates that a driver in any school zone crash that causes great bodily harm to a child or a crossing guard can be fined up to $25,000 and face possible jail time.

The Victims

School Transportation News reports an average of 19 children are killed every year getting on or off the bus, while about seven a year die in school bus crashes.

Illinois does not require school districts to install seat belts on buses, as is the case in eight other states. In May 2018, the National Highway Transportation Safety Board recommended that states “Enact legislation to require that all new large school buses be equipped with passenger lap/shoulder belts for all passenger seating positions.”

See Also: What To Do When A Bus Stop Arm Is Extended

Most children who are hit getting on or off school buses are between 5 and 7 years old, according to Stanford Children’s Health, and are hit in “danger zones” within 10 feet in front, behind, or to either side of a bus.

Less than four years ago, 12 children were killed and another 47 injured while getting on and off school buses from August 2018 to March 2019.

Among them were three Rochester, Indiana, siblings who died in 2018 while waiting for their school bus, which authorities said had its stop arm extended and lights flashing. Twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle, 6, and their sister, 9-year-old Alivia Stahl, died at the scene, and the driver was later sentenced to four years in prison. Just a day later, a 9-year-old boy in Tupelo, Mississippi, was killed while crossing a highway trying to get to a school bus.

A year earlier, school bus drivers across the United States saw nearly 78,000 drivers illegally passing school buses in one day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Motorists need to pay attention to what’s going on around them,” National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services President Michael LaRocco told School Transportation News after the back-to-back days of children’s deaths at school bus stops.

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