School Bus Safety – Understanding The Hazards

Past studies show that one in every three school-aged pedestrians were struck by other vehicles (cars, light trucks, vans, large trucks, motorcycles). Our youngest students ages 5 to 7 account for one in every three pedestrian-related fatalities. Students between the ages of 8 to 13 accounted for another 1/3 of pedestrian-related fatalities. Factors that cause younger children to be at greater risk:

  • They are smaller to see
  • Can be impulsive and may cross the road without warning
  • Can’t judge a vehicles speed
  • Don’t fully understand the dangers posed by moving vehicles
  • May expect vehicles to stop for them

The best way to prevent a fatal crash is by being alert, paying extra attention, and following defensive driving practices when driving in a school zone or approaching a bus stop. This includes:

  • Continually scanning the road
  • Paying extra attention in a school zone
  • Reducing speed as necessary
  • Watching for children gathering near bus stops
  • Watching for children walking in the road
  • Never pass a school bus on the right side
  • Never pass a school bus when its lights are flashing and its stop arm is extended
  • Always expect the unexpected

All states have laws in place to protect children as they board and exit school buses. Though specifics vary from state to state, there are standard rules that apply everywhere:

  • Never pass a school bus when its lights are flashing and stop arm is extended
  • Never pass a school bus on the right side; this is where children enter and exit

In many states, school bus drivers can report illegally passing vehicles; the action does not need to be observed by law enforcement for a driver to be cited. School bus drivers also use the flashing light system to alert motorists of pending actions:

  • Yellow flashing indicates that the bus is preparing to stop – slow down and prepare to stop
  • Red flashing lights and an extended arm indicate that the bus has stopped and children will be getting on or off the bust – drivers must stop and wait until:
    • The red lights stop flashing
    • The stop arm is withdrawn
    • The bus begins to move

Use extra caution in a school zone. The posted speed limit is greatly reduced providing drivers more time to react to unexpected actions by children. A driver’s undivided attention needs to be on the road looking for potential hazards. And remember – always expect the unexpected.