Now that school is back in session across the state, commuters must be aware of the additional traffic on the road in the form of school buses. State Department of education Director of Safety John Dozier says many drivers are still not clear on a law that changed in the state four years ago pertaining to a stopped school bus. Dozier says on a two lane road or highway traffic directly behind and approaching the bus from the opposite lane must stop so children can be safely loaded or unloaded. Dozier says the rules are different for four lane roads.”if you are on a four lane highway then only the traffic behind the bus is required to stop. We do not have stops on the left side of the road on four-lane highways so that traffic approaching the bus on four-lane highways may continue to move.The traffic behind the bus must stop and wait until the bus pulls off and the red lights are deactivated.”
Dozier says drivers should always be alert to inattentive children darting into the road at bus stops.
Dozier says morning commuters must remember that since we are still operating on daylight time, it is still relatively dark when many children are walking to the bus stop. Dozier suggests that it is a good idea for parents to accompany young children to the bus stop during early morning hours.
“Perhaps the parents can get together and alternate who is going to accompany a group of children or who is going to wait with the children at the bus stop. The children should wear bright colored clothing so they can be seen and they should try to arrive at the bus top at least 10 minutes prior to the bus’ arrival.
Dozier says parents should take the time to sit down and teach their children highway and traffic safety rules.
Dozier says many studies have been done on school bus safety on whether children should be buckled up. Dozier says school buses are constructed so that the seats serve as passive restraint devices. The buses have high back seats that are padded and the seats are placed close together, no more than 12 inches apart. Dozier says it has been shown that if a school bus crash occurs a child’s entire body will impact the seat in front of him so the force of the crash will be spread throughout the child’s body which greatly lessens the chance of injury.
“Smaller children, if they are buckled up in a crash situation, if the lower part of the body is restrained the head would move forward into the seat right behind it and they are more susceptible to head and neck injuries if they are buckled.”
California is the only state requiring lap-shoulder belts on new buses. New York, New Jersey and Florida require lap belts on new buses. Starting in 2010, all new buses purchased by Texas school districts will require lap-shoulder belts.
Dozier says the hard and fast rule pertaining to children bringing belongings on the bus is that if they can hold their belongings in their laps, they are permissible.
“That is basically the hard and fast rule that we have bringing, for instance, book bags or laptops or those type things on the school bus. They are permissible as long as that object does not interfere with another child in case of an emergency evacuation of the bus.”
Dozier says children are cautioned not to place objects on the floor of the bus because they may shift and trip their fellow classmates who are trying to leave the bus especially during an emergency situation.