MOUNT VERNON — As National School Bus Safety Week kicks off today, motorists and students are reminded of the laws and tips to maintain everyone’s safety
Safety tips for motorists.
•Be aware of children entering or exiting the bus. According to the National Safety Council, approximately 26 students are killed and 9,000 injured each year in incidents involving school buses. The majority of those school-bus-related accidents occur when children are crossing the street to board the bus or after getting off the bus.
•Put away your cell phone. The majority of vehicle crashes are due to distracted drivers.
•Be aware of school start and dismissal times and schedule your travel times accordingly.
•Never pass a school bus with flashing lights. The yellow/amber lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and pick up or discharge students. They are normally turned on approximately 300 feet before the bus stops and motorists should begin to slow down and prepare to stop as soon as the bus slows and/or the red flashing lights come on.
Motorists must stop when the red lights are flashing even if the “stop sign” arm is not extended. Drivers need to stop at least 10 feet from the front or rear of the bus and they may not legally proceed until the bus resumes motion.
Motorists must stop when the stop sign is extended and may not proceed until the bus moves, whether the sign is extended or not.
•By law, all traffic must stop for a school bus on a two-lane or two-lane-with-turning-lane road, no matter which direction it is traveling. Traffic must stop at least 10 feet away from the school bus, whether coming from its front or rear. Failure to stop may result in up to a $500 fine and possible drivers’ license suspension for up to a year.
•On roads with four or more lanes, only traffic moving in the same direction as the school bus must stop when the bus is picking up or releasing passengers. However, drivers may not use a turn lane to pass a school bus when it is stopped. That is illegal.
•Maintain a safe distance from the school bus. Remember that school buses make frequent stops, including at all railroad crossings. Maintain a 2-3 second distance from the bus at all times, even before it puts in its yellow lights. Be mindful that school buses generally drive at a slower speed than regular traffic. Do not pass a school bus unless the driver signals you to do so, because you may be in the blind spot of the school bus. Also, you must stop no less than 10 feet behind the bus, so maintain your distance.
Tips for students
• Be aware that backpack straps and strings on jackets and clothing should be kept short and close to children’s bodies so they cannot get caught on bus handrails and between the doors;
•Safe pedestrian practices walking to and from the bus stop include wearing bright clothing, avoiding the use of headsets or earphones, and staying alert to traffic and other hazards;
•Always remain in direct eyesight of the bus driver;
•Get to the bus stop in plenty of time;
•Take 10 giant steps back from the curb while waiting for the bus and 10 steps when exiting the bus;
•Never try to get anything left on the bus after exiting;
•Never reach underneath the bus;
•Always following the driver’s directions for how and when to cross the street;
•Be alert to traffic and look both ways; always cross in front of the bus, but only when the bus driver signals it is safe to do so.