By Veronica Burniston
The school year is officially underway in Johnson County, which means school buses are buzzing down highways, backroads, and through neighborhoods to pick up children K-12. In the 2017-2018 school year, School Bus Fleet Magazine estimated that 9,366 Tennessee school buses transported roughly 589,230 children to public schools daily. With children physically returning to classrooms, school buses will once again become a common sight with their flashing lights and stop signs. It is an important time for drivers to be alert behind the wheel.
“Be mindful that schools are back in session,” Dr. Mischelle Simcox, the Johnson County Director of Schools, said. “Please adhere to all the traffic laws, be mindful of speed limits, and don’t talk on cell phones while driving. We want to protect our bus drivers and kids.”
According to research conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC), most children killed in school bus-related incidents are 4-7 years old. Unfortunately, they are either hit by the bus itself or by another car who passes the bus illegally as children depart. It is vital for parents to train their kids in bus safety measures, such as taking three large steps back from the curb while waiting for the bus. If crossing the road, take five to seven large steps ahead of the bus, make eye-contact with the bus driver, and check both directions before crossing the street. In addition, drivers need to be aware of their surroundings, slowing down near school zones, playgrounds, and especially bus stops.
Drivers, keep in mind, it is against the law in all 50 states to pass a stopped school bus picking up and releasing children. If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, all traffic must stop, even at intersections. The only exception is divided highways where a physical median or barrier rests between the oncoming lanes.
“We want to remind everyone to be vigilant of school buses and children in the morning and afternoon,” the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post last week. “Everyone needs to be patient as the staff and students transition back with Covid-19 precautions.”
For more information regarding school bus safety, visit the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s website at www.nhtsa.gov. For more parental tips
regarding child safety, visit www.safekids.org.