Brian Neben Lexington Clipper-Herald
NEBRASKA — School is back for the most part and that means school buses will be back on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some facts about school bus safety.
According to the NHTSA, the school bus is the safest vehicle on the road, and children are much safer traveling to school by bus than by car.
Students are over 70 times more likely to get to school safely on a bus for several reasons. First, school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road and they are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles when it comes to accident and injury prevention.
According to the NHTSA, school buses are,
• Different in design: School buses are designed to be highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, mirrors and stop sign arms. They also include protective seats, high crush standards and rollover protection features.
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• Protected by law: Laws protect students getting on and off a school bus by prohibiting drivers from passing a school bus when dropping off or picking up passengers, regardless of the direction of approach.
While seat belts have been mandatory in cars since 1968 and play an important role in passing vehicle safety, school buses operate differently.
“Large school buses are heavier and distribute impact forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks. Because of these differences, passengers in buses experience significantly less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks, and vans,” according to NHTSA.
“NHTSA has decided that the best way to provide crash protection for passengers on large school buses is through a concept called ‘compartmentalization.’ This requires the interior of large buses to protect children without them needing to buckle their seat belts Thanks to the compartmentalisation, children are protected from collisions by solid, closely spaced seats with energy-absorbing backrests.
“Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Because small school buses are more similar in size and weight to passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in these vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection,” according to NHTSA.
The greatest risk for children is not to take the bus, but to approach or leave it, and this is due to other motorists.
According to the NHTSA, it is important for parents to teach their children the rules of road safety.
The NHTSA lists the following tips for parents,
“Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the scheduled bus arrival time. Go to the bus stop and show your child where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) from the sidewalk Remind your child that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.
When the school bus arrives, your child should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop, the door to open, and the driver to say everything is fine before approaching the bus door. Your child must use the handrails to avoid falling.
Be careful around the bus
“Your child should never walk behind a school bus. If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, tell them to walk on a sidewalk or along the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing . Your child should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see them. If your child drops something near the school bus, like a ball or a book, the safest thing is for your child to tell the bus driver immediately. Your child should not try to pick up the item as the driver may not be able to see it. »
The motorist on the road can also make school bus trips and children safer by following certain practices.
• When exiting a driveway or garage, watch for children walking or biking to school.
• When driving through neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking of going to school, but who may not be thinking of getting there safely.
• To slow down. Watch for children walking on the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
• Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
• To be fowarding something. Children who arrive late for the bus may rush down the street without looking for traffic.
• Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state, as well as the “flashing traffic light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists to actions in progress:
• Flashing yellow lights indicate that the bus is about to stop to pick up or drop off children. Motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop their vehicle.
• Flashing red lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their car and wait for the red lights to stop flashing, the extended stop arm to be removed, and the bus to begin moving before they can start moving again.
In Nebraska, passing a school bus with the stop arm extended is illegal and punishable by a $500 fine, the same amount for a first DUI.
School buses and motorists. Both are part of the morning and afternoon landscape of five generations of schoolchildren. Although yellow wasn’t adopted as a school bus color until 1939, school buses have been around since 1915, about as long as the automobile, according to NHTSA.
All the while, there has been an uneasy coexistence between school buses and motorists. School buses make frequent stops to load and unload students. This is the nature of their business. By law, when a school bus stops to drop off or pick up students, motorists must also stop. But motorists often do not want to stop. Motorists want to get where they are going, with little interruption and as quickly as they can.
Motorists are urged to obey the law and help protect children in their community when they travel to school by bus.