With school starting this week, students are hearing about several rules they need to follow. Perhaps the most important one, for their personal safety, is the 10-foot rule around school buses.
That’s considered the danger zone – the area on all sides of the bus where students are in the most danger of not being seen by the driver (10 feet in front of the bus where the driver may be too high to see a student, 10 feet on either side of the bus where a student may be in the driver’s blind spot, and the area behind the school bus).
“It’s the number one factor in student safety,” said Pat O’Donnell, safety manager for Levy School Bus Company. “Bus stop safety is one of the most critical areas.”
In the Quakertown Community School District, approximately 4,400 of 5,150 students – about 85 percent – are eligible to ride the bus, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes as the safest vehicle for students to ride to and from school.
The greatest risk to a student isn’t when they’re on a bus, according to NHTSA, but approaching or leaving one. Agency statistics show that from 2008 to 2017, there were 264 school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes. The majority of those students weren’t on the bus; 203 were either walking, waiting for the bus, biking, or in another vehicle.
Before school begins, it’s a good idea for parents to speak with their students about bus stop safety, whether they’re a bus rider, walker, bicyclist, or driver.
On school days, arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. When the bus arrives, wait until it comes to a complete stop, the door opens and the driver says it’s okay before approaching.
The student should use the handrails to avoid falling and they should never walk behind a school bus. If a student must cross the street in front of the bus, he or she should walk at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing. Students should make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see them.
For walkers, those under 10 years old should be accompanied by someone who will make sure they walk safely. Walkers should use the sidewalk whenever possible, and if there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic. Whenever available, use marked crosswalks to cross the street, and look left-right-left for vehicles or bikes before crossing. Students should watch the road, not their phones.
Bikers must know the rules of the road. Always wear a correctly fitted helmet, and securely fasten the chin strap. Ride in the same direction as traffic, and follow traffic signs and signals. Stay in the bike lane whenever possible. Never use electronics while riding.
For motorists, whether student drivers or adults, avoid distractions. With the new school year about to start, slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the 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.
When you’re near a school bus, understand that yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload students. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and students are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
The district is working with Levy to further enhance transportation safety with greater communication capabilities and through recommendations made by the Community Safety Committee.
Zach Schoch, the district’s chief operating officer, said the two organizations are partnering on devices that put Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on buses that allow both Levy and the district to contact and/or locate drivers within 30 seconds.
Levy has also agreed to have its drivers wear identification badges, so they may enter buildings without going through the Raptor process. If they don’t have badges, they’ll be required to have their driver’s license run through the Raptor system, like all visitors.
Part of Levy’s drivers’ training has included Safe2Say Something protocols, where they learn to recognize signs of a child in need who may be seeking out help from a trusted adult.
“Levy has been working with us to implement the recommendations of the Community Safety Report, and we believe this will add to the safety and security of our students and school employees,” said Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards, the district’s safety coordinator.
Gary Weckselblatt is director of communications for Quakertown Community School District.