Slow down! What your fleet needs to know about bus safety
After 30 years in the fleet industry, there are some things that just come second nature. For me, road safety is one of those. And dealing with violations for a living has only further enforced that.
While safety is an automatic to me, others may not be so aware of it. Several weeks ago, I received a call from a friend who wanted my advice. Apparently he had received a ticket in the mail for passing a stopped school bus.
Not having been stopped by a police officer, he wanted confirmation of the validity as well as advice on how to handle it and knew I was the guy to ask. I decided to take him on a little field trip to show him more about how and why he got the ticket.
We headed to the nearby elementary school where buses were lining up for the end of the school day. I drove up to the line of yellow and pointed out several cameras placed in various spots on the school buses. Today's buses capture motorists who bypass the stop sign arm and flashing lights with these strategically placed cameras, meaning a police officer doesn't have to be nearby for you to get a ticket. Get caught on camera and you get a nice ticket in the mail.
Of course, we've all seen that driver who just can't seem to wait a few moments for the bus to move on and instead drives right by. Doing so, though, puts students at risk of injury and the driver at risk of receiving a hefty ticket. Most states don't take school bus safety lightly and the penalties reflect that. This particular friend's ticket was $300 but could have been up to $1,000 based on the state law.
According to a report from the Governor's Highway Safety Association, 5,984 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2017. While all of these aren't school bus related, students are vulnerable in the moments they are loading and unloading the bus. The extra two minutes we save by bypassing the bus aren't worth the life of a child. And when we recognize that, we become much more patient with those flashing lights.
For many of us, school bus safety seems to be a no-brainer. But there may be a few tips that you aren't aware of and may just be the difference in a safe ride to or from school for students. And of course school buses aren't the only place we encounter road rules to protect children. School zones have their own specific rules that are important to follow.
Below are some basic bus and school zone safety tips to observe while you're on the road. Remember, a child's life could depend on it.
Sharing the road
- Don't pass. Did you know that passing a stopped school bus is illegal in all 50 states? This includes traffic in BOTH directions on the road as long as it in an undivided highway. There are no exceptions to this cardinal rule, so be sure to follow it!
- Yellow lights or red – what's the difference? Yellow flashing lights on a school bus indicate that the bus is preparing to stop. Red lights are accompanied by the stop sign arm indicating that children are now boarding or departing the bus. Regardless of the color, motorists should exercise caution any time lights are flashing on a bus and be prepared to stop at all times.
- Leave space. The 10 feet around the school bus is the most dangerous area for children. Be sure to leave plenty of space between your car and the bus when stopping.
- Be careful. Exercise extreme caution whenever you are near a bus. You must be prepared to stop at all times. Remember, children can be unpredictable. So just because the students are off the bus, doesn't mean they're in the clear. Even after the bus drives away, be alert for kids on the sidewalk or in the street. At the end of the day, their safety is the priority.
Sharing the school zone
- Crosswalks are for pedestrians. When stopping in a school zone, be sure your vehicle is fully outside of the crosswalk and not blocking any portion of the lines. When your vehicle is partially inside, pedestrians are forced to walk around the vehicle, putting them in potentially dangerous situations.
- Flashing lights are not only for buses. When you encounter a flashing sign at a crosswalk, you must stop to allow pedestrians to cross. While some schools have crossing guards, not all students have an adult monitoring them as they cross the street. Pay close attention when in these areas.
- Refrain from using your horn. School zones and the rules associated with them are meant to protect students and faculty. Honking your horn may startle pedestrians and create unpredictable behavior.
- Children are unpredictable. As students leave the school, many are excited to get out and play. Be extra cautious in any area where students may be out, including school zones, neighborhoods and parks.
As we wrapped up our drive, my friend wondered if he really had to pay the ticket or if there was a way out of it as a first-time offense. As a motorist caught on camera violating a law, though, the only thing he can do is pay the ticket and learn from it.
Fleet drivers have many different rules and regulations that need to be followed. Consequently, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day and overlook violations and the impact they have. But doing so both puts your fleet at risk and increases your TCO.