Fall has arrived, and millions of children throughout Virginia are back in school. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely riding a school bus than riding in a passenger vehicle. Two of the main reasons are that buses are larger vehicles and provide more protection for passengers inside, and that buses are among the most regulated vehicles on the road.
The NHTSA goes on to say that the biggest risk for school kids is not when they are riding the bus, but when they are approaching the bus and exiting from it. Children who are walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, and getting on and off the bus are at risk of various types of hazards, such as vehicles driving nearby, slip and fall accidents, and many others. We all must do our part to ensure that they are able to get to and from school safely.
Here are some tips for parents and drivers to keep school children safe around bus stops:
- Have your Child(ren) Arrive Early: Safety starts with making sure your kids arrive at the bus stop before the bus’s scheduled arrival. Whether you are walking them to the stop or they are going on their own, be sure they get there about five minutes or so ahead of time. Rushing to catch the bus at the last minute can pose all sorts of hazards, so make it a habit for your child to get to the stop ahead of time.
- Exercise Caution around Buses: Teach your kids to be careful when they are waiting for the bus. Have them stay at least six large steps away from the curb and let them know that the bus stop is not a place to play and run around. Children should never walk behind a school bus, and if your child must cross the street at a crosswalk opposite a school bus, instruct them to always make eye contact with the bus driver so they know the driver can see them.
- Make Sure your Kids Onboard and Exit the Bus Safely: Have your child avoid rushing onto or off of the bus. They should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and for the driver to open that door and say it is okay to onboard or exit. Instruct them to use the handrails while getting on the bus to avoid slipping and falling.
- Drive Slowly: When driving in school zones or behind buses, be sure to slow down and allow yourself plenty of time to react to pedestrian and bicycle traffic and sudden school bus stops. Buses frequently need to slow down to pick up and drop off kids. They are also required to come to a complete stop at all railroad crossings. Always drive at a safe speed when you are behind a bus and while kids are around the bus stop.
- Watch for Kids Approaching or Leaving: Children are unpredictable, and they often dart out into traffic when they are in a rush to catch the bus. Horseplay at the bus stop can also be a hazard as kids can sometimes end up in the street. Be mindful of kids walking on sidewalks and crossing the street near bus stops and be extra cautious when they are nearby.
- Avoid Distractions: When kids are at or near a bus stop, drivers need use their full peripheral vision to stay focused on what is happening around them. Be alert and avoid distractions such as responding to a text or email. It is not worth risking a life to return a text. If a situation requires an urgent response, pull your vehicle over and put it in park, so you can handle the situation safely.
- Obey Virginia School Bus Stopping Laws: There are stiff penalties in Virginia for failing to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers. In fact, a violation can result in a reckless driving charge, with the possibility of having your driver’s license suspended for six months, fines of up to $2,500 and the possibility of jail time. If you are driving behind a school bus, you are required to stop when the signal arm is raised and remain stopped until it is lowered. Vehicles approaching the bus from the other direction must also stop if they are on a two-lane road or multi-lane paved road. If you are on a multi-lane road with an unpaved space or barrier in-between and you are coming from the other direction, you are not required to stop, but proceed with caution.
What to Do if You or Your Child is Injured Near a Bus Stop
By following safety rules, we do our best to prevent bus stop accidents and injuries. But sometimes, we follow all the rules and an accident still occurs. This is often due to negligence or reckless behavior by one or more individuals. If you or your child was seriously injured around a bus stop, you may be entitled to compensation.
At the Law Offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have in-depth experience representing individuals who have suffered severe injuries and fatalities due to another party’s negligence. Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of personal injury law, and what it takes to ensure that parties responsible for these types of injuries are held fully accountable.
For a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, contact our office today at (703) 361-1555 or send us a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.