School bus safety depends on you obeying the law, children abiding by the rules

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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School buses are a special focus this week for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Troopers not only will follow many of the bright yellow vehicles on Texas roads and highways, but also will board some alongside students.

The special action by the DPS is not in response to any foreign or domestic terrorist threat, but a cautious and appropriate reaction to a continuing danger posed practically every day by motorists who disregard the law and put schoolchildren at risk.

This is National School Bus Safety Week, and with more than 40,000 buses on the road transporting about 1.5 million Texas children every day, drivers should make sure that they do not pass a school bus (from either direction) that is stopped with flashing red lights or displaying its STOP sign.

“The moment when students are entering and exiting the bus is one of the most dangerous times of a student’s trip; drivers who pass a stopped school bus create a potentially deadly situation,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a news release. “The safety of Texas children is paramount, and DPS will not tolerate those who break the law and put our children at risk.”

A new law, which took effect in September, raises fines for violators up to $1,250. Last year, DPS troopers alone issued 449 tickets for passing stopped school buses.

Any one violation is too many when it could put a child’s life in danger.

About a dozen children die each year in the United States in school transportation-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Sadly, some children are injured or killed by the bus rather than a passing motorist.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service maintains that school buses are still the safest way to get children to school, but it notes that most of those killed are pedestrians, 5 to 7 years old.

In addition to motorists following the rules, parents and students are encouraged to adhere to prescribed safety tips around buses and at bus stops.

Students should not run and play while waiting on a bus. Once aboard, they should remain in their seats and not talk too loudly, lest they become a distraction for the driver.

The law and rules are basic safety guidelines that are not hard to understand. But they can only be effective if followed.

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