For 23 million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. The greatest risk for students is not riding the bus, but approaching or leaving the bus.
As we gear up for more than 26,000 Carroll County students to return to school, Maryland State Troopers are urging motorists to take extra care when driving in proximity to school buses. The reality is that motorists pose a greater threat to school bus students than they would ever have to face simply riding on the bus, according to a police report.
Carroll County School Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said Carroll County roads will be busier next week and drivers should plan accordingly.
"We ask all drivers to be alert and watch for students standing at bus stops," Guthrie said. "In addition, please be aware that over 300 buses along with student drivers will be on the road next week. Therefore drivers may wish to allow more time for their daily commutes."
Carroll County School Transportation Director Mike Hardesty said that this year marks the start of the school system's new transportation plan. Most schools will have new start/end times and many students will be greeted by new bus drivers with different bus numbers.
"Bus drivers will activate the amber warning lights located at the top of the front and back of the bus at least 100 feet prior to the bus stop to alert motorists to slow down and prepare to stop," Hardesty said. "All motorists must stop at least 20 feet in any direction approaching the school bus when the red flashing warning lights have been activated!"
Here are a few more reminders to help motorists keep students safe this school year:
- BE ALERT AND SLOW DOWN - Keep an eye out for students, since they will likely be preoccupied and may not be paying attention.
- LOOK FOR THE FLASHING LIGHTS - The yellow flashing lights on the bus indicate it is preparing to stop, to unload or load students. The red flashing lights show the bus is stopped and students are getting off or on. Drivers are prohibited from passing in either direction a school bus when red flashing lights are activated, unless they are on a divided highway.
- NEVER PASS ON THE RIGHT - The consequences could be tragic if students are loading or unloading. Make sure you stop your vehicle at least 20 feet either in front of behind the bus when its red lights are flashing. This gives children enough space to safely enter and exit the bus.
- WALK THE ROUTE WITH YOUNGER STUDENTS – Whether your child walks to school, or just to the bus stop, it is important for an adult to initially walk the route with them, especially if they are younger. Parents or guardians can point out hazards to children and alert them to locations along the route where they should be especially cautious.
- REDUCE YOUR DISTRACTIONS – This is an important tip for drivers at anytime, but especially during the school year. Reduce any distractions inside your vehicle, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings, especially in school zones. Remember, no texting or handheld cell phone use while driving.
Extra police patrols will be deployed on school bus routes and troopers will be specifically targeting motorists driving unsafely around school buses or ignoring the red flashing lights when a bus is stopped, according to a news release. These patrols will be funded by special state school bus enforcement grants coordinated through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.