Stop for students!
National School Bus Safety Week emphasizes the importance of transportation safety
National School Bus Safety Week is a great time to remind us what a critical role school buses play in the education of our students.
In Oakland County, 1,300 school buses transport nearly 75,000 students – about 44% of total public school students each school day. These buses travel over 16,500,000 miles, equivalent to circling the earth almost 665 times last school year alone. Not only do school buses allow students to arrive at school on time and ready to learn each day, they contribute to the overall welfare of Oakland County residents by reducing the number of cars on Oakland County roads by over 49,000 a year.
Illegal passing stopped school bus is at epidemic proportions.
Sadly, the number of students who were injured or killed while crossing the street to their school bus or school bus stop, as well as students hit by illegally passing vehicles, or who were struck while walking on the side of the road to or from their school bus stop, has increased in recent years.
Nationally, motorists illegally pass stopped school buses displaying flashing red lights 95,000 times each school day! That equates to 17,100,000 illegal pass-bys per school year. More pass-bys occur annually than the total populations of 46 of 50 of states in the U.S.
During the last three years in Michigan, an average 622 illegal pass-bys occurred each school day! That equates to 111,960 illegal pass-bys per school year. If school bus pass-bys were a city, it would rank as the 8th largest city in Michigan.
Too Many Tragedies!
By law, motorists must obey the flashing red lights of a school bus just as they do a traffic signal. But, in just three days in October 2018, motorists passed by school buses, ignoring their stop signs and flashing red lights and killed five students.
One of those tragedies occurred in Fulton County, Indiana when a 24-year-old driver drove past a stopped school bus which witnesses say had its red lights and stop arm clearly displayed, striking and killing 3 siblings. That driver was recently convicted of three felony counts of reckless homicide for 6-year-old twins and their 11-year-old brother’s deaths.
The driver said she had just dropped her husband off of work and her three-year-old daughter, two-year-old son, and 12-year-old brother were in the back seat of her Toyota Tacoma truck. Her brother had spent the night at her house, and she was taking him to her mother's home to get dressed so she could take him to school.
What you can do to help stop the epidemic and ensure student safety.
Eliminate distractions. Whenever you are behind the wheel of your vehicle, put your phone and any other items that can cause distractions away and keep your focus on the road. This also sets a great example for your children.
Always looks up. Distracted walking can be almost as hazardous to student safety as distracted driving. Remind your children to put their phones away while walking and to look up and look out before crossing any street. Their focus is even more crucial when crossing to get on or off the bus, even if the school bus lights and stop sign are on. Motorists do not always stop.
Be diligent at and around bus stops. Michigan law requires drivers to stop no less than 20 feet from a stopped school bus displaying its red flashing lights. Always follow these school bus safety tips from the Michigan State Police:
- Prepare to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing.
- Stop at least 20 feet away for buses when red lights are flashing, unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.
- Slow down in or near school and residential areas.
- Look for clues such as safety patrols, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds-that indicate children might be in the area.
- Watch for children between parked cars and other objects
Student safety is critical to their success during their school day and should be a focus all year through by everyone in our community. Please join us in keeping students, yourself and others in Oakland County safe. Stay focused on the road and eliminate all distractions while operating your vehicle.
Lori Richardson is the transportation director for Oakland Schools.