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School bus safety

Drivers need to be extra cautious as kids get back-to-school

School started across the county this week and the Kent County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging drivers to cut down distractions and concentrate on the road as kids of all ages get back to school.

Children are often eager to get on and off the bus because they are excited to get to school and they are also excited to get home and tell their parents about their day.  Sheriff Stelma has some safety measures for both students and motorists to help ensure safety for everyone.

Tips for Students

Always arrive at the bus stop early.

Prior to boarding, wait until the bus has some to a complete stop, the door is opened and the bus driver says that it’s OK to board.

Once on board proceed quickly to your seat and stay sitting until the bus arrives at your school or other drop off location.

Do not move around on the bus.

Always walk on the sidewalk when preparing to cross the street near a bus.  Make eye contact with the driver so that you are sure he or she sees you.

Never walk behind the bus.

If you are walking beside the bus, make sure you are at least 10 feet (10 “giant” steps) away.

Take extra precaution to make sure that clothing with drawstrings and book bags do not get caught in the handrail or door.

Never stop to pick something up you have dropped while the bus is stopped.  Wait until the bus has driven off to avoid not being seen by the driver.

Tips for Motorists

Remember that children are unpredictable in their actions.  Take extreme caution when traveling in a school zone.

If you live in an area where there are no sidewalks, drive cautiously.  Be more alert to the possibility of children walking in the road.

Be more aware of children playing near school bus stops.

Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.

Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully

Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

Put down your phone–don’t talk or text while driving!

Slow down and prepare to stop whenever you see yellow school bus lights flashing.

Never pass a school bus when there are flashing red lights.  This is a sign that children are getting off the bus—and it’s the law!

Traveling to and from School

Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop.  Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and, if possible, with intersections that have crossing guards.
Walk the route with your child beforehand.  Tell him or her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields and other places where there aren’t many people around.

Teach your child never to talk to strangers, accept rides from strangers or accept gifts from strangers.  Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your children don’t know well or don’t trust.

Be sure your child walks to and from school or the bus stop with a sibling, friend or neighbor.

Teach your kids, whether walking, biking or riding the bus to school, to obey all traffic signals, signs and traffic officers.  Remind them to be extra careful in bad weather.

When driving kids, deliver and pick them up as close to the school as possible.  Don’t leave until they are in the schoolyard or building.

If your child bikes to school make sure he wears a helmet that meets safety standards.  Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.

If your child rides a scooter to school, make sure she wears sturdy shoes, a helmet, kneepads and elbow pads.  Children under 12 should not ride motorized scooters.

Be sure your child knows his or her home (or parents’ cellular) phone number(s) and address.  They should also know where you work, your work phone number, the phone number of another trusted adult and how to call 911 for emergencies.

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Back to school means back to traffic safety basics

N-traffic-basicsIt’s that time of year again when bus stops are full and school bells are ringing and motorists are urged to watch for children as they make their morning and afternoon commutes.

The school year officially begins Tuesday and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is reminding motorists to brush up on their traffic safety A-B-Cs to ensure it starts safely: stay alert, obey school bus lights and use car seats and seat belts when transporting children.

In 2008, 11 pedestrians ages 6-17 were killed and 491 were injured in Michigan. Three bicyclists in the same age range were killed and 542 suffered injuries. Children should be encouraged to only use crosswalks when crossing the street and to always wear a bike helmet when riding a bike.

“Many times tragedy strikes when a child is running late for the bus or class and runs across the street without looking or from behind parked cars,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “Motorists need to slow down in school zones and be alert when driving in and around schools and buses.”

Drivers are also reminded to treat school bus lights like traffic signals:

  • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
  • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing and the extended stop sign is withdrawn.

Parents who drive their children to school need to obey Michigan’s seat belt and car seat laws. Children must ride in a car or booster seat until they are 8 years of age, or 4 feet 9 inches tall, whichever comes first. Children up to age 16 must use seat belts in all seating positions.

In addition, children younger than four must ride in a car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle if the vehicle has a back seat. If all available rear seats are occupied by children under four, then a child under four may ride in the front seat if properly restrained in a car seat. If the child is in a rear-facing car seat, they may be placed in the front seat only if the front passenger air bag is turned off and all rear seats are occupied by children under four.

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