COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - With the time change last weekend we’ve all noticed it getting a little darker in the evenings. Unfortunately, this can cause problems for children on their way home from school.
Local school districts including Lee County, Harris County, and Muscogee County are all reminding citizens to stay safe and remain alert with these new darker hours. They warn that illegally passing a school bus can greatly endanger the lives of local children that the driver might not be able to see.
According to the most recent one-day national survey in 2017 by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, more than 107,000 school bus drivers in 30 states, recorded more than 78,000 vehicles illegally passing their school buses as they stopped for students to board or disembark.
Thankfully, Muscogee County has been able to minimize these risks over the past few years after installing cameras and sensors on their school buses to detect when a car illegally passes a school bus.
Still, the districts are making an effort to spread awareness on how drivers and kids can be as safe as possible.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives these tips for motorists:
- When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, slow down and watch out for children, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
- Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
- Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state, as well as the light system that school bus drivers use:
- Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
- Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
And these tips for parents and students:
- Arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes early and stand at least 6 feet away from the curb. The bus stop is not a place to run or play.
- When the school bus arrives, wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay before approaching.
- Never walk behind a school bus. Walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street. Cross the street in front of the bus with at least five 10 feet between the bus and you.
- If you drop something near the school bus tell the bus driver right away. Do not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see you.
The risk was highlighted this week when at least five children lost their lives when they were hit by drivers near school bus stops. According to authorities, another seven children were hurt in bus stop incidents last week too.
NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King addressed student fatalities and injuries in Florida, Indiana, Mississippi and Pennsylvania with a video message that urged motorists to obey state laws and watch for children near bus stops.
“I want drivers to know that it is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus when the red lights are flashing and the stop arms are extended,” she said “Failing to do so puts precious lives at risk. As a country, we need to do better. We must keep our children safe.”