CINCINNATI — According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are seven times safer than passenger cars. Unfortunately, motorists illegally passing the stopped school bus present an increased risk to students boarding and leaving the bus. First Student joins the National Association of Pupil Transportation (NAPT) to raise awareness for National School Bus Safety Week – October 19 to 23 – and to remind motorists to turn off mobile devices and heed the school bus stop arm.
The use of mobile devices while driving increases the rate of an incident. Preoccupied drivers often do not notice stopped school buses, placing students at risk. The effect of distracted driving is alarming. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who text are 23.2 times more likely to have a crash or near crash event. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 80 percent of collisions are caused by driver inattention.
Even more concerning is the increase in reports of distracted drivers ignoring or missing school bus stop arms. Bus drivers and police across the country are reporting a greater number of stop arm incidents, increasing the risk to student safety.
The rules for motorists regarding school bus stop arms are simple. When a school bus stop arm is deployed:
Vehicles traveling the same direction as the bus must stop until the bus driver indicates it is acceptable to pass or the stop arm is retracted.
Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction must stop unless they are traveling on a four-lane road that includes a median or barrier.
All drivers can help prevent dangerous driving activity by:
Not using cell phones, iPods or Blackberries while driving. Drivers should pull over to make phone calls, change their playlist or send texts.
Eliminating daily distractions such as putting on makeup or eating while driving.
Heeding the school bus stop arm. If the stop arm is extended and the red lights are flashing, vehicles must stop until the driver retracts the sign and the bus resumes motion. Motorists do not have to stop if they are on the opposite side of a four-lane road from the bus if the road has a barrier; however, they should reduce speed as children may be present.
- Remaining alert at all times.
“Driving is a visual task, and it requires a motorist’s full attention,” said Gary Catapano, senior vice president of Safety for First Student. “Texting, making phones calls and searching for music all cause momentary distractions that place students at risk.”
FirstGroup America (FGA), the parent company of First Student, fully supports the prevention of distracted driving. In 2008, FGA established a companywide policy prohibiting all employees or contractors on company business from using a mobile device, either hand-held or hands-free, while driving.Employees across all divisions of the company are instructed to pull over at a safe location and turn off their engine before making a call or sending a text message.