As the start of another school year rapidly approaches, drivers all over Chautauqua County will have to reacquaint themselves with the rules (and common sense) of sharing our roads with school buses.
The basics are simple: it is illegal to pass a school bus while the stop-arm is extended and the red lights are flashing.
But, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2011 and 2020, there were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians (183) than occupants of school buses (113) in school-bus-related crashes nationwide. A total of 218 school-age children (18 and younger) died in school-bus-related crashes in the U.S. during that period, either as occupants of school buses or other vehicles, or on foot or bike. Of the 218 deaths, 85 were children who were walking.
Think about the school-aged children in your life. Do they always stop and look both ways before cautiously proceeding across a street? Plenty do not. That’s why it is not only the red flashing lights that are important, but the yellow flashing lights that tell drivers a bus is about to stop to unload — or load — children. Once those lights are active, drivers should stay out of the “danger zone:” 10 feet in front of the bus, where the driver may be sitting too high to see a child; 10 feet on either side of the bus, where a child may be in the driver’s blind spots; and behind the school bus.
It’s true, following all the rules in place to keep our kids safe can mean more time on the road. Now is the time for drivers in a hurry to plan for alternate routes or leaving earlier to reach their destinations.
Remember, the occupants of those school buses are relying on us — the grown-ups — to make sure they get to school safely.