By David Silvey
According to the American School Bus Council, school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and preventing injury. Today, as compared to years ago, school buses are built with safety in mind. In fact, a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation states that children are safer riding the bus to and from school than being driven in a car by an adult. When you are sharing the road with school buses, follow these tips to keep kids and yourself safe.
- Yellow and red flashing lights: School buses have yellow lights to warn drivers they will be making a stop and red flashing lights and an extendable stop sign to tell drivers to stop. Yellow does not mean go faster, it means slow down. Be aware of your surroundings and always come to a complete stop. Do not continue driving until the lights have turned off and the sign is pulled in. Oncoming traffic in all lanes must also stop when the red flashing lights are on.
- Passing a school bus: It is illegal to pass a school bus on the right side of the road, because you cannot be aware of where the bus needs to stop to load or unload. Always wait for the bus to move to the right lane or stay a safe distance behind it. Additionally, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. It is vital that you stop your vehicle at least 10 feet away from the school bus to allow for riders to enter and exit safely.
- Railroad crossings: In most states it is required that school buses stop at all railway crossings. Be alert when a crossing is ahead and a school bus nearby so that you can stop as well.
- Divided highways: You must always stop for flashing red lights, but most states do not require drivers to stop when on the opposite side of a divided highway. Use extreme caution if you are in this situation as passengers may be trying to cross in that area, especially if there is a crosswalk.
- Buses need turning space: Just like trucks, buses have a wide turning radius. Remember to provide them with ample turning space so they can maneuver easily on the road.
- Watch for children waiting for the bus: As the driver, you are responsible for keeping an eye on the road and on children waiting for the bus. Come to a complete stop at all stop lights and stop signs, drive slowly near bus stops and watch for children crossing the road.
- Slow down: Use caution if you are driving in residential areas and school zones. Fines for speeding in an area can be hefty.
- Allow for extra time during your commute: School bus drivers have to follow the same speed limit rules as every other driver. However, they make frequent stops, which can delay traffic. Know the bus routes in your community and allow ample travel time when school is in session.
David Silvey is a vice president at Alliedarton Security Services, which provides security personnel to many industries, including education.