By James Brooks, PFC
A new school year has begun and students all over the City are excited for the school year ahead of them. Many students will use the safest transportation available on a daily basis: bus transportation. The City of Falls Church Police Department and Falls Church City Public Schools ask everyone to practice safe habits to ensure every student arrives and leaves school safely.
"Prevention and safe habits are the best success for a safe ride to school," says Police Chief Mary Gavin. "Accidents will certainly be prevented when pedestrians and drivers follow the law. Vehicles must stop for school buses loading and unloading children."
Drivers who unlawfully pass a school bus can be cited for reckless driving.
"Cameras on the school buses are also monitoring violators," Chief Gavin said.
Falls Church City Schools Transportation Director Nancy Hendrickson could not agree more. "Our goal is to have zero violators. When we call attention to violators it reduces future risk." Hendrickson added, "Patience is the key to safety. Students may not necessarily be oriented in their daily routine causing some delays at the bus stops."
Pedestrians can also play their role in ensuring everyone's safety. Lead school bus driver, Jim Day has many years of experience as a school bus driver and offers safety tips for those arriving at the bus stops. "One of the biggest fears is a student or parent rushing to a bus from behind. It startles a bus driver when pedestrians pass through the blind spot. Crossing in front of the bus driver and waiting for the driver's hand signal to proceed is a much safer way to approach a bus."
All bus drivers are serious about safety. They take pride in their professionalism and their service to the community. "We are usually the first and last person a student sees during their educational experience and we are proud of that," said Day.
Here are some tips on how everyone can be safe at bus stops:
- When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
- When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out 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.
- Slow down. 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. Learn the "flashing signal light system" that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending 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 (6 feet) away 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 okay 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 avoids 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
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)