MADISON, Wis. — As schools across the state gear up for another school year, the Wisconsin State Patrol is making the push to ensure school bus safety and a safe commute for students.
The WSP said despite many safety measures, there are about 600 crashes involving school buses every year in Wisconsin.
“School buses are some of the safest vehicles on the roads because they’re specially built to withstand damage in a crash, but our goal is to avoid testing that technology,” Superintendent Tim Carnahan said. “All drivers must maintain the highest level of awareness when traveling near a school bus to avoid crashes and protect children on the way to school.”
School buses will begin their routes in the coming weeks, so drivers should plan for potential changes in traffic patterns.
Wisconsin law requires drivers to use extra caution around school buses:
- Stop at least 20 feet away from a bus when red warning lights are flashing; the only exception is if you are traveling on the other side of a divided road
- Slow down when amber lights are flashing, which signal the bus is about to stop and red lights will soon be activated; drivers can pass a bus with amber lights activated but should do so cautiously
- Yield to pedestrians who have a walk signal or green light, or those who are crossing a road with no signals
- Always follow directions from school crossing guards
When passed illegally, WSP noted bus drivers should report violations to law enforcement. A citation for failure to stop for a school bus costs $326 and four demerit points.
Parents should also prepare their kids for safe bus stop habits and general walking precautions, WSP said.
Children should always:
- Look both ways before crossing the street
- Follow instructions from bus drivers and crossing guards
- Stay at least three steps away from the curb when waiting for the bus; wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the driver says it’s safe to get on the bus
- Make sure the bus driver can see them when crossing in front of the bus; stay at least five steps away and look both ways for other traffic
School bus drivers must pass the Commercial Driver License exam with a school bus endorsement. Also, some bus companies and school districts hold frequent new driver and continuing education programs to ensure safety rules are followed.
In addition, the WSP inspects every Wisconsin school bus every year to ensure the vehicles are ready to transport students safely. They conduct about 10,000 inspections each year, looking at mechanical equipment like steering, brakes and exits, first aid kits and more.