Deadly Risk Of Illegal School Bus Passing Focus Of Federal Initiative

The most dangerous part of the school bus ride isn’t the ride, it’s approaching and getting on and off the bus.

On most weekdays, millions of children across the United States line up to ride school buses, considered one of the safest ways to get to school. Less than 1% of all traffic fatalities involve children on school transport vehicles. But more injuries and fatalities occur outside of or near school buses where a child may not be seen – the “danger zone “ – because a driver has failed to obey the stop-arm warning or to follow local traffic laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Passing a stopped school bus is against the law and could have fatal consequences. Nothing is worth the risk,” Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s acting administrator, said in a statement. “Children’s lives are on the line.”

From 2011 and 2020, there were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians than occupants of school buses in school-bus-related crashes.

To raise awareness about the “significant threat” posed by illegally passing stopped school buses, the federal agency announced a new campaign.

The news was announced on Tuesday in advance of the annual National School Bus Safety Week, observed this year October 17 – 21. The initiative, which aims to educate drivers about the importance of slowing down and obeying school bus stop signs in order to keep kids safe, will run through October 31.

In every State and the District of Columbia, it is illegal for vehicle drivers to pass a school bus while the school bus stop-arm is extended and the red lights are flashing. Failing to do so could result in injury or death to child pedestrians or their caretakers.

In a survey conducted several years ago,130,963 school bus drivers reported that 95,319 vehicles passed their buses illegally on a single day during the 2018-19 school year. Throughout a 180-day school year, NHTSA noted, “these sample results point to more than 17 million violations among America’s driving public.”

Vehicle drivers should always come to a complete stop in front and behind the school bus when the red lights are flashing and the school bus stop-arm is extended and may begin moving only when the red flashing lights are turned off, the stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins to move, the federal agency said, noting that the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides dedicated resources to create a public safety messaging campaign to protect the safety of children and bus operators.

For more information about the initiative and safety tips, click here and here.

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