With schools set to re-open on Tuesday, January 4th in DeKalb County, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) reminds motorists of the importance of school bus safety awareness and education.
"Riding the school bus is one of the safest modes of transportation; it's when children get on or off the bus that causes concern," said Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. "That is why it is critical for parents, teachers, and school administrators to stress the importance of crossing in view of the school bus driver, and to instruct children on other safety tips that will keep them out of harm's way."
Each day, some 480,000 school buses transport more than 26 million children to and from school and school related activities, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. An average of 19 school-age children die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year – five occupants of school buses and 14 pedestrians. Most of those killed are children five to seven years old.
The "danger zone" for a school bus is the area 10 feet around the vehicle; the two most dangerous places are the front and the right rear tire area of the bus. Children must take care when boarding or leaving the school bus by following these simple rules:
·Always remain in direct eyesight of the bus driver;
·Be alert to traffic. Check both ways before stepping off the bus;
·Make eye contact with the bus driver, and wait for the bus driver's signal before crossing the street;
·Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus to cross the street;
·Never go under the bus to retrieve something you've dropped;
·Get to the bus stop in plenty of time.
"Educating children on school bus safety is a top priority, but we also want to remind drivers to slow down in school zones and obey the stop arm," said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. "Our troopers work diligently to enforce traffic laws in the school zone, and will penalize those who blatantly disregard laws designed to protect children."
In Tennessee and in every state, drivers must stop when the stop arm is extended and red lights are flashing.
Between August 1, 2010, and September 30, 2010, State Troopers wrote 343 citations to drivers as part of THP's Back to School Enforcement Campaign. A total of 126 of those drivers were ticketed for speeding in a school zone. In 2009, Troopers issued 5,445 citations in school zones across the state. Of those citations, 973 were speeding violations, while one citation was handed out for passing a stopped school bus.
All school bus drivers in Tennessee must attend an annual training course in order to receive and maintain the school bus endorsement on their Driver License. During the 2009-10 academic year, more than 12,000 school bus drivers received training from the THP Pupil Transportation Unit. Additionally, THP also inspected 10,595 buses to ensure they were in compliance with the established safety requirements.