A 2018 survey in Maryland shows that the state has a serious problem when it comes to drivers’ ignoring school bus safety rules. A significant number of drivers disregard the law that requires them to stop when a school bus has its red lights flashing and stop-arms out to indicate children are getting on or off. The survey was conducted this past spring with participation from over 80 percent of the state’s bus drivers from 24 school systems. In total, the drivers counted 3,812 violations of red flashing light and stop-arm rules in a single day.
Baltimore City had 64 violations, which is down from last year when there were 152. Among counties, the violation leader was Montgomery, with 1,038 recorded. Baltimore County was second. Bus drivers in the county recorded 688 violations.
Violations for other nearby counties included 385 in Anne Arundel and 97 for Carroll, which were both lower than last year’s numbers. However, in both Harford and Howard counties violations were higher than last year—they counted 196 and 290 respectively.
While the number of violations rose in some areas in 2018, statewide school bus violations were much lower than in 2011, the year the survey was first performed. In that year, there were more than 7,000 violations throughout the state.
Even though the violation numbers are lower than they were seven years ago, they are still shockingly high. The sad truth is that each year 15 pedestrians are killed at school bus stops nationwide, according to data from the National Research Council’s National Academy of Sciences. The biggest danger to kids is when they are approaching and leaving buses. Most fatalities occur when schoolchildren are hit by passing vehicles that have not stopped for the bus as they are required to do by law, or sometimes they are hit by the bus itself. Kids should be taught to stay out of the “danger zone” around the bus, where bus drivers cannot see them, which is within 10 feet of all sides of the bus.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office offers these tips for driving around school buses or near bus stops:
- Slow down and be alert when children are congregating or playing at bus stops.
- Watch for children who may dart across the street to get to the bus stop.
- Understand the system school bus drivers use when they are preparing to load and unload children. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and drivers should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms mean the bus has stopped and kids are loading or unloading. Drivers coming from either direction must stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing. This is the case for two-lane roadways, two-lane with center turning lane roads and four-lane roadways without medians between lanes. On roadways with four or more lanes and a median separating lanes, only motorists following school buses are required to stop.
- Never pass a school bus on the right side where children are entering or exiting.
Following driving laws around school buses and being vigilant near bus stops can help prevent tragedy. One person violating driving laws around school buses is one too many. A child’s dying because of a driver’s safety violation is unacceptable.
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