I recently wrote to Jeff Rossen, the television journalist for NBC news. Most know him from his Rossen Reports where he reports the latest safety issues, common myths and survival tips. As a parent and a defensive driving instructor, I would like to see a report that will educate the public about stopping for a school bus with the stop arm out and the red lights flashing. Most drivers are aware that you must stop behind the bus, while many still pass the bus when these warnings are activated. I spoke to a student yesterday who said his friend counted 88 vehicles in one day alone that passed his bus when they should have stopped. Not surprising, since it is estimated that over 10 million drivers illegal pass school buses every year. And what about stopping on the other side of the median, traveling in the opposite direction? The fine for this has been increased to over one thousand dollars if issued by a police officer. And many buses have been equipped with cameras for this reason which can be up to a three hundred dollar fine. For economical reasons alone, one would think that everyone would stop behind a stopped school bus. Perhaps the issue here is not only respecting and valuing the lives of other people’s children, but when it’s really broken down for you (which I am going to do here if you read on), buses are much more valuable to us and should be respected for not only saving lives of children, but also for fuel conservation and air pollution.

EDUCATION: Taking the bus decreases truancy and increases the likelihood of children doing well in school. If half the battle is showing up for school, the school bus is helping us win the battle.

ENVIRONMENTAL and ECONOMICAL: School buses keep over 17 million cars off roads each year. One bus carries the equivalent of 36 cars. This saves families approximately 62 billion miles of driving, 2.6 billion gallons of fuel and 56.5 billion pounds of CO2.

SAVING LIVES: Students are 70% more likely to get to school safely if they ride a bus, rather than in a car. School bus drivers are the most highly trained, tested and scrutinized drivers on the road. Since passing vehicles cause an estimated 2/3 of school bus loading/unloading fatalities, here is a wee bit of information to keep kids safe.

• More school-aged pedestrians are killed from 7-8 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. than any other time of the day.
• The Danger Zone: Motorists should not be within 10 feet radius around all sides of a school bus. A safe stop distance away from a school bus should be up to 25 feet when stop arm is out and red lights are flashing. Slow down when the yellow lights are flashing and prepare to stop. Do not attempt to pass the bus. Oncoming cars must drop speeds to 20mph or less. When stop arm is out, every driver behind the bus must stop. Oncoming cars must stop if there is only a painted line or a split/divide in the median (a divided highway will depend on certain situations).

So it’s critical that we learn and follow the laws pertaining to school buses in our own state. You can find this information at http://www.nasdpts.org/Operations/documents/State_Laws_Regarding_Passing_School_Buses.pdf

Take a minute and educate yourself about these important laws. And be active in your community about educating others about your state’s school bus laws.

Until next week…

Daun Thompson
Writer / Comedienne / Artist

A Stopped School Bus – Comedy Defensive Driving