National School Safety Week took place last month; but with the weather and visibility worsening throughout the province now that fall is here, and with the clocks having gone back an hour, meaning it gets darker earlier, it’s an important time to remind everyone of the rules of the road when driving near school buses and in school zones.
According to the Association of School Transportation Services of British Columbia, travel by school bus is statistically the safest possible method of ground transportation in Canada, and by a substantial margin.
However, children are put at risk by drivers who are unaware of, or ignore, rules about school buses. The greatest risk to children’s safety is outside the bus: either from the bus itself or from surrounding traffic.
Here are some tips for parents and drivers to help keep children in our province safe.
The top ten safety tips for parents, guardians, and child-care providers to teach children are:
1. Always stay 10 giant steps in front of, or beside, the bus so that the driver can see you and you can see the driver. Be ready to stop for a school bus with flashing lights.
2. Never walk behind the bus. That’s the danger zone, because the bus driver cannot see you.
3. Make sure your shoelaces are tied so you don’t trip entering or exiting the bus. Scarves or loose drawstrings on clothing can also be hazardous: they could catch onto the bus or bus door when children enter or exit the bus, and children could be dragged alongside the bus out of the driver’s view.
4. Wait for the bus in an orderly manner, so you don’t fall or get pushed in front of the bus or other traffic. Board the bus in single file. Use the handrail so you don’t trip on the steps.
5. Sit down right away, so you don’t fall when the bus starts moving.
6. Sit all the way back in your seat so the aisle isn’t blocked. Keep the aisle clear of feet, backpacks, books, etc.
7. Talk quietly so the driver can concentrate on driving.
8. Keep your head, arms, and hands inside the bus, not out the window. Never throw things inside the bus or out the window.
9. Wait until the bus stops moving before standing up to exit the bus.
10. When exiting, be sure the red lights of the school bus are flashing before crossing the road. Check the traffic around you. Be sure all other drivers see you and that it’s safe for you to proceed before you cross the road.
Top tips for drivers:
1. Vehicles in all lanes, from either direction, must stop when approaching a stopped school bus with flashing lights.
2. Do not pass a school bus when its lights are flashing. Drivers are fined $368, and assessed three penalty points, for passing a stopped school bus while it is displaying flashing red lights to load or unload students.
3. After stopping for a school bus, don’t start moving again until the bus moves on or the driver signals that it’s safe to move on by turning off its flashing lights and pulling in its stop sign.
4. It only takes a few seconds for a child to run out onto the road, so be extra careful in and around school zones.
5. If you’re picking up a child from a bus stop, always stop on the same side of road to help prevent the child from having to cross the street.
6. Always obey the 30km/hour speed limit in school zones, which are in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days.