Approximately 19 school-age children are killed getting on and off school buses every year, according to media reports.
Most of these children are hit in the area 10 feet in front of the bus, 10 feet behind it and 10 feet to either side of it, according to a report from Stanford Children's Health. They are struck either by the school bus itself or by a passing driver — even though it is illegal for a vehicle to pass a bus when its red flashing light is on.
The fall means kids are now back in school, which makes it a good time for fleet managers to remind their drivers about best practices for driving in school zones and near school buses.
Experts share the following advice:
Look for Signs
School zones often feature cautionary signs so that drivers know to be on the lookout for children. When you don't know the neighborhood, always stay alert for signs as you could suddenly find yourself in a school zone.
Travel at a slow speed when driving in school zones or when you see a school bus ahead or approaching.
Be Alert for Children
Kids are small and can missed in your blind spot. They can also dart in and out of the roadway, so be extra vigilant in surveying the roadway and landscape when driving in school zones. Finally, many kids do not take the school bus, but instead walk to and from school. Be on the lookout for children crossing unmarked intersections and roadways. In addition, pay extra attention when making right turns or at red lights — you can't always spot kids as easily as adult pedestrians.
Obey School Bus Laws
First, slow down as you are approaching a school bus, especially if you see its flashing yellow lights. In North America, the law requires all drivers — oncoming as well as those behind the bus — to make a full stop when a school bus turns on its flashing red lights or retracting stop sign.
Experts suggest drivers leave plenty of distance between their vehicle and the bus — approximately three to six car lengths.
Do not put your vehicle in motion until the bus driver has retracted the stop sign.
Keep in mind that some buses feature cattle guards in front of the bus to keep children from getting too close to the front of the bus and ensuring that the bus driver can see them. That means that it may take children a bit longer to cross in front of the bus than you anticipate, so be prepared to wait patiently.
Be extra cautious and on the look out for school buses between the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
Finally, bear in mind that illegally passing a school bus is often viewed by law enforcement as an egregious traffic offense equal to, or worse than, drunk driving.
Drivers who violate school bus laws face stiff penalties and sometimes even jail time.