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Categorized | Back 2 School

Flashing Lights on Top, You Must Stop:


Safety First as School Buses Hit the Road

Schools start August 21, 22, 23, 28 and September 5

 – We’ve all been in the car behind the school bus and in just a few days, many of us will be in that position again.  Knowing when to stop and when to go can mean the difference between a safe ride to school for students and a potentially deadly situation.  According to Darryl Hofstra, Forest Hills School District transportation director, some 16,000 school buses in Michigan transport 700,000 students daily.  That’s more than 200 million individual student rider trips, traveling 175 million miles, per school year.

Knowing when to stop and when to go when approaching a school bus is more than good safety practice, it’s the law.  Michigan legislation defines a “school bus zone” as the area lying within 20 feet of a school bus that has stopped with its red flashing lights on.  That’s 20 feet in every direction – front, back, both sides and diagonally from each fender corner.  It’s easy to remember what school bus lights mean if you think of them as traffic signals:  When you see red flashing lights, STOP; when you see yellow flashing lights, proceed slowly with CAUTION.

“Whenever you see a school bus, use extreme caution,” said Fred Doelker, safety and training director for Dean Transportation.  “Think of it as though you were a parent or grandparent and those were your kids in the bus.”  The fines for causing injury or death in a school bus zone are the same penalties for work zones and emergency scene violations.  Doelker advises motorists to take bus safety seriously and personally.

“The greatest risk to students is that area around the bus,” he continued. “When we talk with students, we call it the danger zone. If the bus is stopped, you can count on kids loading or unloading there. That’s why our advice to all motorists is to maintain a safe distance. Children may be coming from any direction, so maintaining that zone helps protect them.”

Burr Smith, 25-year trainer for bus drivers in Kent ISD, said student safety is his biggest concern and the key concept he teaches. “Everyone who shares the road needs to respect school bus zones and follow the law. It’s up to all of us to watch out for kids.”

The diagram below demonstrates the area within 20 feet of a school bus that is known as the School Bus Safety Zone.


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