Officials urge caution near schools, buses | #schoolsaftey

EDWARDSVILLE — The 2023-24 school year begins at districts across the area this week and school and public safety officials are urging drivers to slow down and use caution in school zones and around school buses, particularly as students get on and off the bus.

Edwardsville District 7 students have a half-day of school Wednesday morning, Aug. 16.

Traffic safety around school buses is imperative, and local and national leaders emphasize this particularly after a summer of schools sitting mostly idle and quiet.

The hour before and after school are the most dangerous times for students on the roads, said Stephanie Shaw, National Transportation Safety Board advocate. In fact, more school-age pedestrians were killed between 7-7:59 a.m. and 3-3:39 p.m. than any other hours of the day, she added.

Indeed, as the City of Edwardsville pointed out this week in social media posts reminding motorists that school traffic is back, the bus stop is the most dangerous part of a school bus ride.

The No. 1 priority for all of the community is the safety of schoolchildren and everyone contributes to that environment at school and on the way to and from educational facilities.

Illegal passing

As Shaw from the NTSB points out, it is illegal in every state to pass a school bus that’s stopped to load or unload passengers with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended. 

Drivers should remember:

  • Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop to pick up or drop off children. Drivers should slow down, be alert and prepare to stop.
  • Red flashing lights mean the bus is stopped to pick up or drop off children. Drivers must stop and watch for children getting on or off the bus. When red lights are flashing and the stop arm of the bus is extended, motorists must NOT proceed.

In a deadly 2018 collision, a pickup truck driver failed to stop for a stopped school bus that had its red warning lights and stop arm activated. The pickup truck struck children crossing the road to board the stopped bus.

The NTSB, after the investigation into the incident, recommended that states enact legislation to permit stop arm cameras on school buses to capture images and allow citations to be issued for illegal school bus passings based on the camera-obtained information.

Shaw said the agency also recommended that the use of school bus stops that require students to cross a roadway be minimized.

Driver behavior that contributes to back-to-school transportation includes speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving, the NTSB reports.

“Safety improvements … can prevent crashes and save lives,” Shaw said.

Talk to your kids

Shaw said the NTSB encourages adults to talk to their school-age children about transportation safety especially when it comes to getting to and from school.

The agency offer the following tips.

  • Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely if they take the school bus instead of traveling by car. If your student can ride the bus, make this your first choice. School buses are the safest vehicle for traveling to- and from- school and school-related activities. If your students school bus is equipped with seat belts ask them to buckle up, every trip, every time.
  • If your student will be walking to school, map out the safest route for them before school is back in session and practice it a few times. This will help your child become familiar with the route, including any crosswalks or intersections they may need to negotiate and allows you the opportunity to demonstrate safe walking behaviors.
  • If you have a student biking to school, be sure they wear a helmet and reflective gear! Helmets are the most important piece of safety equipment for bicycle riders. Just as with walking, it’s also important to help your child select the safest bicycle route before starting the school year.
  • If you’re the parent of a teen driver, talk to them about safe driving behaviors — following posted speed limits, no cell phone use, about always buckling up and getting enough sleep before they get behind the wheel.  Consider signing a parent-teen driving contract with your teen driver with clear guidelines for using the car.

The NTSB also reminds drivers to be on the look out for children in neighborhoods and around schools, and slow down.

“When you’re behind the wheel, give the driving task your full attention, don’t be distracted by your cell phone  — hands free doesn’t mean risk free — and never drive impaired by alcohol or other drugs, even over-the-counter medication,” Shaw said.

Numbers tell the tales

Although school bus transportation is overall safe, according to the NTSB, even one injury or death is too much when it comes to school-related travel.

Between 2011 and 2020, there were 1,009 fatal school transportation-related crashes, the NTSB reported.

Of school-age pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes, 52% were age 5 to 10 years.

Also, there were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians than occupants of school vehicles in such collisions.

Still, school bus travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. According to the NTSB, nearly 600,000 buses carry more than 25 million students to and from school and activities every day.

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