Technology a threat to school bus safety

Published 10:46 am Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This week – Oct. 19 to 23 – is National School Bus Safety Week and that provides a worthwhile reminder.

Statistically, riding on a school bus is seven times safer than riding in a passenger car. The greatest danger to those riding on a school bus is motorists illegally passing the stopped bus as students board or disembark.

And that danger is increased exponentially when the driver of an automobile is distracted by a cell phone or other new technology.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who send text messages while driving are 23.2 times more likely to have a crash or near-crash event. And, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 80 percent of collisions are caused by driver inattention.

And, as we become more and more dependent on our technology, reports by police and by school bus drivers of other drivers ignoring or missing school bus lights and arms continue to increase.

The rules are simple: When a school bus stop arm is extended:

Vehicles traveling the same direction as the bus must stop until the bus driver indicates it is acceptable to pass or the stop arm is retracted.

Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction must stop unless they are traveling on a four-lane road that includes a median or barrier.

Driving requires the full attention of the person behind the wheel. Failure to give that can easily, and within an instant, have horrible consequences for the driver and for others; consequences that can last a lifetime or take a life altogether.

Do not use your cell phone, iPod or Blackberry while driving. Wait until you are stopped to make phone calls, change your playlist or sent text messages.

The same applies to putting on makeup or eating. Do it when you are stopped.

Heed that school bus stop arm.

Above all, be alert at all times while driving.