According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), school buses represent one of the safest modes of transportation, nearly eight times safer than passenger vehicles. That’s partly because school bus transportation is subject to both federal and state regulation.
However, even though the operation of school transportation is closely monitored, school bus drivers cannot control the behavior of other vehicles on the road. According to a 2006 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, titled Traffic Safety Facts, an average of 20 school-age children die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year.
In an effort to keep school children safe, GMAC Insurance conducted a survey of 5,524 licensed drivers to find out what misconceptions they had about common laws relating to driving while in the vicinity of school transportation.
According to the survey results, many drivers know they must stop when approaching a school bus from either the front or the rear when the vehicle’s red lights are flashing; however, they are unsure about the exact stopping distance. Only 30 percent of the drivers polled knew that the correct stopping distance is 20 feet from a bus.
The survey’s findings also revealed other gaps in many drivers’ knowledge about the proper procedures when driving near a school bus. To help keep students safe, GMAC developed the following five tips for drivers to remember:
1. Stay stopped. When a school bus stops and displays its red flashing lights, come to a stop until the lights are no longer flashing or until signaled to proceed by the bus driver or police officer.
2. Keep back. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet (or one and a half car lengths) from the back of the bus.
3. Don’t pass. It is illegal to pass on the right side of the bus, where children are loading and unloading. In many places, school bus drivers can report a passing vehicle.
4. Be attentive. Children may run out into the street when heading home or to the playground without realizing that there are drivers nearby.
5. Go slow. Obey the posted speed limits in school zones where children are often walking or playing and pay attention to crossing guards.