Back to School!

Published 8:17 am Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Did you notice them on Monday morning en route to work?

Following a summer break, the big, yellow buses were back on the road Aug. 26. Each had onboard some very precious passengers – the young people of the Roanoke-Chowan area and state of North Carolina as the 2013-14 academic year cranked up full of new and exciting expectations in and out of the classroom.

With the new school year underway, more than 700,000 students will be transported on school buses each day across North Carolina.  Nationally, more than 450,000 public school buses travel about 4.3 billion miles a year to transport over 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities.

Sadly, on the average five to six children are killed and about 5,500 are injured in school bus related accidents each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The most dangerous part of the school bus ride is when children get on and off the bus. Loading and unloading is where children are in the most danger of not being seen by the bus driver.  Specifically, the area 10-feet in front of the bus where the driver may be too seated high to see a child; 10-feet on either side of the bus, where a child may be in the driver’s blind spot; and the area behind the bus. Many pedestrian fatalities in school-bus related crashes are children between 5 and 7 years old.

To prevent these needless deaths and injuries, drivers, children and parents are advised to follow a few simple safety tips:


When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.

When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.

Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.

Slow down. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.

Be alert. 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. Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:

Yellow flashing lights indicate that 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 that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Motorists need to be reminded of the situations regarding stopping for a bus with its red lights flashing and the stop sign is out:

If you are traveling a two-lane road, all traffic from both directions must stop;

If you are traveling a two-lane road with a center turn lane, all traffic from both directions must stop;

If you are traveling a four-lane road without a median separation, all traffic from both directions must stop;

If you are traveling a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation, only traffic following the bus must stop; and

If you are traveling a road with four or more lanes with a center turn lane, only traffic following the bus must stop.

Passing a stopped school bus can cost motorists five points on their driver’s license and eight points for commercial vehicles.


Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.

Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it’s okay before stepping onto the bus.

If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.

Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with draw strings, and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.

Never walk behind the bus.

Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.

If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.


Teach children to follow these common sense practices to make school bus transportation safer.