Think safety first: Stop for stopped school buses

Date: October 18, 2018

Our students' safety, health and well being should be everyone’s priority. Ferguson Township Police have compiled a safety checklist for students, parents, and anyone who is responsible for keeping kids safe on their way to and from school. 

Protecting students who are taking the bus to school, walking, riding bikes, or riding in cars
In Pennsylvania, buses transport more than 1.5 million students each school day. It’s human for motorists who are following school buses to feel some impatience when buses stop to pick up students, but vital that drivers put students’ safety first. Police encourage commuters to allow extra time for delays, or to consider routes that avoid school bus stops altogether. In any case, when you are mindful of students’ safety, you won’t mind a little longer commute. 

Pennsylvania law makes it illegal to pass a stopped school bus. Yet last year, local school bus drivers reported a number of motorists driving through flashing red lights and the extended stop arm.  Ferguson Township Police saw an increase in reported school bus violations as well as incidents of distracted driving. 

Local school bus violations doubled between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years (from 49 in 2015-16 to 97 in 2016-2017). 

Even one school bus violation is too many when our children's lives are at risk, but when you consider that the school year is 180 days, the number of reported violations is astounding.

Our children’s safety is at risk when drivers meet or pass stopped school buses, and the penalties are severe: a $250 fine and a 60-day suspension of the motorist’s license. All buses are now equipped with cameras to monitor such activity. In 2016, 730 motorists were convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law.

The School Bus Violation Statute 3345 reads as follows:
Meeting or overtaking school bus.
(a)  Duty of approaching driver when red signals are flashing. Except as provided in subsection (g), the driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking any school bus stopped on a highway or trafficway shall stop at least ten feet before reaching the school bus when the red signal lights on the school bus are flashing and the side stop signal arms are activated under section 4552(b.1) (relating to general requirements for school buses). The driver shall not proceed until the flashing red signal lights are no longer actuated. In no event shall a driver of a vehicle resume motion of the vehicle until the school children who may have alighted from the school bus have reached a place of safety. The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection at which a school bus is stopped shall stop his vehicle at that intersection until the flashing red signal lights are no longer actuated.

Distracted driving is one of the most serious driving offenses in United States — claiming 3,179 lives and injuring 431,000 in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Ferguson Township Police continue to cite drivers attempting to multitask while operating a vehicle. Reported behaviors are using cell phones to make calls or send text messages, reading newspapers, sorting through CDs to play, and applying makeup.

It is vital to focus 100 percent of your attention on the road, being mindful to put your safety and the safety of your passengers and other drivers first. Drivers also need to be vigilant of changing road conditions and the behavior of other drivers who may be distracted.
 
The Careless Driving PA Statue: 3714 reads as follows: 

Careless driving.
(a)  General rule.--Any person who drives a vehicle in careless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of careless driving, a summary offense.

This covers any careless act such as using your phone while driving, reading a newspaper while driving, snacking while driving or adjusting the radio.

Learn more

Your parents may have taught you to behave for the bus driver, to look both ways before you cross the street, and always walk with other kids-- all good ways to stay safe.

The FTPD also offers these safety tips:

If you’re riding the bus to school, learn how to be safe getting on and off the bus and while riding.  

  • Line up six feet away from the curb as the bus approaches. 
  • Buckle up if seats are available.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing.
  • Do not cross directly in front of the bus; walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see other drivers.
  • Always look both ways to make sure cars are stopping before crossing the street for the bus.

If you’re walking to school, stay on the sidewalk.

  • If you must walk in the street, walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Cross at crosswalks when available. 
  • Never dart in front of a parked car. 
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing. 
  • Never walk while texting, talking on the phone or using headphones.
  • Parents are encouraged walk to school with your young children.

If you’re biking to school, always wear a helmet that is fitted and secured properly. 

  • Use hand signals when turning. 
  • Ride single file on the right side of the road, come to a complete stop before crossing the street, and walk the bike across the road.
  • Be on the alert for motorists opening their car doors and other hazards.
  • Wear bright clothing.

The National Safety Council website also highlights some of the newest advisories about preventing injuries at school, including distracted walking, cellphone use and texting, backpack comfort, bullying, and playground safety. You’ll also find safety recommendations for teen drivers and their parents.

School Checks
Ferguson Township Police frequently walk through schools to interact with students, teachers, and parents.

Child Safety Seat Inspection and Installation
The Ferguson Township Police have certified officers who are trained to properly inspect and install child safety seats.  To schedule an appointment for a child safety seat inspection and installation, please use this form at this link. Please specify in the questions/comments box how many seats require inspection. For more information about the Pennsylvania Child Passenger laws, please visit this PennDOT site on child passenger safety

The Ferguson Township Police Department performed 174 school checks and 15 car safety seat checks in 2017.