Keep bus safety in mind

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, August 28, 2014

With Suffolk Public Schools starting back Tuesday and private schools already back in session, school bus safety will — one hopes it will, at least — be at the top of everybody’s minds in the coming weeks.

With a brand-new school necessitating a new traffic pattern on a much-traveled, high-speed road, it’s even more important for motorists — especially those on Route 58 near Pioneer Elementary School — to be safe and alert. School buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road, but most incidents involving them happen when students are loading or unloading — a time for extra precautions.

School bus safety is important to everyone — bus drivers, the kids on the bus and their families, and even other drivers nearby. Two of my cousins once were in a car accident in Newport News when the older one, who was driving, stopped for a bus unloading children and someone behind them was not paying attention, slammed into the back of their stopped car and pushed their car into a busy intersection. Luckily, none of the cross traffic hit them, but at least one of them still suffers from the effects of the accident more than 14 years later.

Email newsletter signup

The city of Suffolk and AAA Tidewater have some tips for kids, parents and drivers to maximize safety around school buses. Read them and take heed — young lives are at stake.

Advice for drivers:

  • When approaching a school bus with flashing signal and an extended stop sign on a public or private road, you must stop and remain stopped until all children are clear of the roadway and the bus moves again. You do not have to stop if you are traveling in the opposite direction on roadways separated by a physical barrier or unpaved median area. If convicted of passing a school bus that is stopped to load or unload passengers, you can receive a $500 fine and six points on your driving record, which will stay on it for 11 years, according to the city.
  • Watch for children at bus stops and for children walking to and from bus stops.
  • Slow down. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
  • Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Drive especially carefully when near a line of parked cars.
  • Reverse responsibly. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up.
  • Remember that most school buses have a wider turning radius than passenger vehicles.

Tips for students and parents:

  • Teach children proper bus etiquette and proper behavior at the bus stop. Children should not engage in horseplay or roughhousing while waiting for the bus.
  • If a student must cross the street in front of the bus, they should walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road at least 10 feet, or five giant steps, ahead of the bus before they cross. Students should be sure that the bus driver can see them and they can see the bus driver.
  • When the bus approaches, stand at least 10 feet away from the curb. Line up away from the street, not parallel to it.