Keeping kids safe on the school bus as they go back to school

Posted at 5:54 AM, Sep 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-05 11:26:21-04

Schools across Michigan are officially back in business.

While a handful of schools across the metro Detroit area returned before Labor Day, Tuesday marked the official kickoff of the majority of school districts throughout Michigan.

The new school year means more buses returning to the roads, more police patrolling school zones, and more threats that we need to be aware of to keep school children safe.

Today marks the kick-off of AAA’s School’s Open - Drive Carefully awareness campaign. Across the state of Michigan, 15 children between the ages of 5-18 died last year while walking near a road. An additional 69 children were injured in that same period of time.

That’s why police officers recommend drivers taking extra precautions this year.

Lieutenant Cortland Larry from the Warren Police Department told 7 Action News they plan to increase patrols near school zones to begin the year. He also said that drivers simply need to pay more attention.

“Don’t get distracted,” said Lt. Larry. “Slow down and be aware of your surroundings. This is the time of year we want to make sure all motorists are not distracted and are paying attention to school buses, as well as, crossing guards.”

Larry noted that it’s a misdemeanor offense to ignore a direct order of a crossing guard, but added that it’s also an arrestable offense.

As for school buses, you’ll be noticing plenty more hitting the roads.

Michigan State Police have collected crash statistics involving school buses for years, the last available year of data recorded showed 915 school bus crashes occurred during one calendar year. One person died as a result, but it was a driver not a passenger on the bus itself.

There is, however, an ongoing debate about whether school buses should have seat belts. Currently only six states: New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and Texas have laws requiring school buses be equipped with seat belts for passengers.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Safety Council have made similar recommendations over the past few years that laws should require school buses to be equipped with seat belts.

How do you help be a part of the solution of back-to-school safety? AAA has six “School’s Open” safety recommendations for parents, drivers and everyone in-between:

  1. Slow down.  Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. 
  2. Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce the risks by eliminating distractions like cell phone use, eating or grooming while driving.
  3. Reverse responsibly.  Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.
  4. Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3-7pm.
  5. Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
  6. Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle.  If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.