FRANKFORT — As thousands of Kentucky students headed back to school this week, Kentucky State Police is urging motorists to remain cautious behind the wheel and help prevent injuries and deaths that result each year from school bus-related crashes.
Last year, Kentucky had 852 school bus related crashes, resulting in 297 injuries and three deaths. With school starting in many communities, KSP Spokesman Sgt. Michael Webb is urging motorists to be alert for loading and unloading school buses.
“Nothing strikes fear in a trooper’s mind like getting a call that there has been a crash involving a school bus,” says Webb. “As a parent myself, I know how precious those children are, and when they get on the bus, you place their safety in someone else’s hands.”
“As motorists, we need to take extra caution anytime we are in the vicinity of a school bus. Stop, slow down and look for children who may be loading or unloading from the bus,” Webb added.
Webb says distracted drivers and those who speed in school zones often put children in more danger than anything else.
“Texting while driving and using a cell phone takes a drivers attention away from the road,” he says. “Many times inattentive drivers may not see stops signs, reduced speed limit signs or even the flashing lights of a school bus.”
KSP is asking all motorists to be extra cautious as schools open this month and especially when maneuvering around school buses. Law enforcement will be strictly enforcing speed zones in and around schools to ensure children get to school safely.
Kentucky law states if any school bus used in the transportation of children is stopped on a highway for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers, with the stop arm and signal lights activated, the operator of a vehicle approaching from any direction must stop and not proceed until the passengers have loaded/unloaded and the bus has been put in motion.
Passing a school bus while it is loading or unloading is a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class A misdemeanor for the second offense.
“As parents, we must reinforce proper school bus safety procedures with our children, and this is the perfect time of year to talk with them,” Webb said.
KSP encourages parents to review the following schools bus safety rules.
Getting on the school bus:
• When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness. Do not stray onto streets, alleys or private property.
• Line up away from the street or road as the school bus approaches.
• Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before stepping onto the roadway.
• Use the hand rail when stepping onto the bus.
Getting off the school bus:
• If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road, until you can turn around and see the driver.
• Make sure that the driver can see you.
• Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross.
• When the driver signals, walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
• Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver has signaled that it is safe for you to begin walking.
• Stay away from rear wheels of the bus at all times.
Correct way to cross the street:
• Children should always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing.
• They should continue looking in this manner until they are safely across.
• If students’ vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, they should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles — then stop, and look left-right-left again.
Citizens can contribute to highway safety by calling KSP toll-free at 800-222-5555. Citizens can call to confidentially report dangerous drivers or any criminal activity. You may also download the free KSP mobile phone app. The app provides quick, direct access to KSP including weather, road and traffic information as well as text, voice and photo tip capabilities to report criminal behavior. The app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android applications and can be easily downloaded free of charge through Apple and Google Play stores.