September is here, bringing cooler nights, football, changing leaves, and school buses on every corner. Did you know that Maryland falls in the top ten states for school bus fatalities for students between the ages of 12 and 19? Many times, these accidents occur because an estimated one out of every five teenagers cross streets while engaging in distractions such as phone conversations, texting, listening to music, or playing games on their devices. We want everyone to stay safe when sharing the road with buses and students. Here are five driving safety tips for the back-to-school season.
1. Obey the Signs
Whether it’s a school speed zone or a crossing guard, always obey the signs. Some driving safety tips about signs:
- Never try to “outrun” the crossing guard
- Stop when you spot the school bus flashing yellow or red lights
- School zones mean that you must stop for anyone in a pedestrian walkway
- Never block a crosswalk at a red light or when turning
- Only proceed when a crossing guard waves you through an intersection, even if you don’t see any other kids waiting at the corner.
2. Understand School Bus “Behavior”
A school bus is similar to a tractor trailer in the way it is driven, meaning it’s a large vehicle that needs extra time to stop. It makes wide turns, and has large blind spots.
Don’t “hang out” alongside a bus, and don’t assume the driver knows your vehicle is there. Be aware at intersections where the bus will pull wide for turns. Trying to squeeze past it is a dangerous gamble.
3. Do Not Pass
Remember, your inability to see around the bus makes passing it as dangerous as blindly passing a truck on the highway. Passing a stopped bus is also dangerous for the children who may be crossing the road.
4. Unpredictable Kids
As we discussed earlier, kids are easily distracted. Driving safely means understanding that just because you see them doesn’t mean they see you. Kids seldom understand the risks of their behaviors and will often ignore hazards. Don’t believe it? Think of a child chasing their ball into the street; they probably won’t stop and check for traffic first. In fact, most child fatalities in bus-related incidents are less than 8 years old, and they were crossing the street when struck.
Some of the unpredictable behavior involves distractions, such as using personal devices, while others involve clusters of kids. If you see one child crossing the street, be aware there are probably several others not far behind. Make sure all kids are safely across the street and the bus has turned off all alerts before proceeding.
5. Expect the Unexpected
Allow a safe distance between you and the bus, and expect the unexpected. School bus drivers must come to a complete stop at all railroad crossings, whether there is a train coming or not. Allowing a safe distance will give you more time to stop if the bus driver does something unexpected, and gives you plenty of time to stop when it turns on its flashers.
During slippery conditions, allow even more stopping distance between your vehicle and the bus. Remember that it’s not just ice or snow that creates a slippery surface; wet leaves and rain also make for unpredictable and hazardous road conditions.
Kids Aren’t the Only Ones in Danger
Don’t assume that just because a school bus is driven by a professional, they will always make wise choices. If you’ve been injured in a school bus incident, don’t wait; contact Arthur Crum, PA, and let us evaluate your case.