Patrol urges caution as Durham school year begins
As the regular school year begins Monday for Durham Public Schools, the N.C. State Highway Patrol is urging motorists to use extra care on the roads and schoolchildren to be careful getting on and off the bus.
More than 700,000 students will be transported on school buses each day across North Carolina. On 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 patrol says 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, that includes the 10-foot area in front of the bus where the driver may be too high to see a child; both sides 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 involve children between 5 and 7 years old.
To avoid deaths and injuries, drivers, children and parents are advised to follow these safety tips:
-- When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch for children walking or bicycling to school.
-- When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch 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.
-- 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 impending 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 Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
-- 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 (six feet) 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 OK 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 drawstrings 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.
For more information on North Carolina’s stop arm law, go to the following link: http://www.ncbussafety.org/SchoolBusSafety/SBSWlaw.html.
For more information on highway safety, contact 1st Sgt. Jeff Gordon at 919-733-5027 or Jeff.Gordon@ncdps.gov.