Back to School:
Neighborhood Bus Stop Safety Tips
By Renée Cabaup, Comm. Comm.
In a few days, hundreds of kids of all ages in the neighborhood will be heading back to school. During the rush to fill out all the school paperwork, amass all the necessary supplies, and find the perfect backpack, parents and students sometimes forget the most basic and most important information: bus stop safety.
Bus stop safety doesn’t just apply to those residents hopping on buses – it applies to all the residents who live in CHP, especially when navigating the roadways with students and buses. Below are some tips to keep everyone safe and keep mornings and afternoons running smoothly.
- Bus pick up within the neighborhood begins very early in the morning (as early as 6:10am for one school), and over the winter months, some students are waiting in the dark. Make sure that younger kids can be seen by drivers by adding reflective tape or small flashing devices to their backpacks. Remind older kids to walk with a small flashlight or to have their cell phones on, so the light can alert drivers to their presence.
- Make sure drawstrings, scarves, and other flowing clothing items are tucked in, and that backpack straps are not overly loose – these items can get caught on handrails and in bus doorways.
- Go over the basics of ‘stranger danger.’ Remind your child to never accept rides from strangers, and to tell you if anyone offers them one. If somebody bothers your kids at the bus stop, have them tell the bus driver, their teacher, the school principle, and you. Children should feel safe at their bus stops.
- Remind your kids who wear ear buds to keep one ear bud out, so they can hear traffic, bus driver directions, honking horns, etc.
- Many parents in the neighborhood prefer to drive their child to and from the bus stop (especially younger children) and wait until the bus arrives. Unfortunately, this results in a crush of cars along the roadways, sometimes blocking other cars, or the bus itself! Please be courteous, and park all cars on one side of the road, keeping an open lane. Better yet, if a number of kids on your street/section go to the same stop, start a parent ‘ride sharing’ group.
- If you drive your child to the bus stop, South Carolina state law prohibits parking or ‘standing’ within thirty feet of a stop sign [*1]
- Go over bus crossing safety. Remind children to:
- Never cross the street for a stopped bus until the driver tells them to do so.
- ALWAYS look both ways before crossing the street – even if the driver says it is ok to cross. Make sure all cars are stopped or that there are no cars coming before stepping into the street.
- Always cross the street in FRONT of the bus, where the driver can see them.
- DO NOT be texting, talking on your cell phone, or goofing off with other students while crossing the street – keep your eyes on the road, and move swiftly across the street.
- If something falls under or near the bus, NEVER bend down to pick it up – the driver can lose sight of them! If they drop something, have them go back and tell the driver so he/she is aware.
- Before stepping OFF the bus, look both ways to make sure it is safe – drivers, motorcyclists, and bicyclists have been known to pass busses on the right, even driving across sidewalks and lawns to do so!
- After stepping off the bus, wait in front of the bus, out of the danger zone (see diagram below), until the bus driver tells them to cross the street. Always look both ways for cars before stepping out from in front of the bus and crossing the street.
– Behave on the bus – the driver needs to concentrate on the road and keeping kids safe at pick up and drop off.
- Always walk on the sidewalks, if available – if there is no sidewalk, walk at the side of the road (or on grass) facing oncoming traffic.
- Never accept rides from strangers! If a stranger bothers you on your way to or from the bus stop, or at the bus stop, immediately tell your bus driver, teacher, principle, and parents. Never be afraid to speak up!
- When waiting for the bus, stay on the sidewalk, a bit back from the road. Do not run, play, or horse-around in the roadways or on the sidewalk. Always be alert, especially when cars are passing you on the street.
- Once the bus arrives, DO NOT cross the street until:
- The bus has come to a completely stop.
- The red lights are flashing and the stop sign under the driver’s window is unfolded to traffic.
- The bus driver tells you it is safe to cross to the bus. Always follow the bus driver’s directions!
- Before crossing the street, Always look for vehicles. Look left, then right, then left again when:
- Crossing the street to get on the bus
- Before STEPPING OFF the bus (cars, motorcycles, and bikes may be illegally passing the bus on the right, by the door)
- While still standing in front of the bus, waiting to cross the street.
- When you are crossing the street, DO NOT text, play video games, talk on your cell phone, listen to music, or goof off with other students! Pay attention to the bus driver, keep your eyes on the road, and move swiftly across the street. Stay alert!
- Don’t assume that moving cars will stop for you, even when the red bus lights are flashing! Always wait until all cars come to a complete stop before crossing the street!
- When crossing the street to get on or off the bus, make sure you step about 12 feet away from the front of the bus, so the driver can see you – anything closer is considered a ‘danger zone’ (see diagram below).
- Always stay far away from bus tires.
- If you drop something in front of or anywhere near the bus:
- DO NOT bend over to pick it up! The bus driver will not be able to see you if you bend over!
- Wave your hands to get the bus driver’s attention, go back to the bus door, and tell the bus driver that you dropped an item.
- Only pick up your item after the bus driver tells you to go ahead!
- After you pick up your item, go back to the bus door and tell the bus driver that you are all set – if you need to cross the street, the bus driver will then help you.
- To prevent possibly dropping items, make sure all zippers are closed on backpacks and that all pocket items are secured before you reach your bus stop.
- Before getting off the bus, make sure any drawstrings, scarves, or long dangling items are tucked away and that backpack straps are not dangling. These items can get caught on handrails or in the bus door.
- When the driver stops to let other kids off the bus, sit quietly in your seat, and do not distract the bus driver. The bus driver needs to concentrate on keeping the kids who are crossing safe. Also, do not yell out the window to your friends – they need to concentrate on crossing the road safely.
- As previously mentioned, busses begin picking students up very early, and in the winter, often in the dark. Be especially aware of this as you drive within the neighborhood.
- Keep your eyes 100% on the road! Do not eat while driving, do not read papers or books, do not be fumbling with the radio, GPS, make-up, etc. And - most importantly - and most often the cause of accidents - STAY OFF YOUR CELL PHONE!
- SLOW DOWN! Leave a little bit earlier if you must – do not speed in neighborhood! It’s better to be a bit late to work than to be involved in an accident that injures or kills a child! Adjust your morning and evening schedules around busing times.
- Slow down around kids who are walking on the side streets (no sidewalks) and kids waiting at bus stops. Never assume that they will stay where they are – always be prepared to stop if needed!
- Always obey school bus laws. South Carolina school buses are equipped with cameras and - in this day of everyone having cell phones - you will most likely end up recorded and be caught! The minimum fine for illegally passing a school bus is $500.00 and 6 points off your license for your first offense, and $2000.00 and six points for your second offence.
- When a bus begins flashing its yellow lights, it is preparing to stop – DO NOT speed up to pass the bus! Younger children, especially, sometimes forget their crossing rules and run into the street toward the bus – be extremely cautious!
- Come to a complete stop once a school bus stops, turns on the flashing red lights, and extends their stop sign from the driver’s side. DO NOT CREEP your car.
- Stop at least 20 feet behind a school bus. In case of a bus emergency, this allows ample space for children to evacuate the bus from the rear.
- If a bus is stopping, and you are coming from the opposite direction, stop at least 30 feet from the bus. This allows ample space for kids to cross and for the bus driver to be able to keep track of them all.
- Portions of Lost Creek Drive are divided by islands; HOWEVER, these islands break at intersections. When driving, if a bus is stopped on the opposite side of the road at the intersection, treat Lost Creek Drive like a multi-lane roadway, as illustrated below, and STOP for the bus if it is flashing its red light.
- Be aware that kids are also often distracted – younger kids don’t always look both ways before crossing; older kids may be looking at their phones. Also, kids not at the bus stop yet may be running to catch the bus, so always assume that they can pop out from anywhere. Be vigilant.
Something for drivers to think about: According to an article by Tanya Mohn, Forbes Online contributor, ‘On a single day during the 2017-18 school year, 108,623 school bus drivers across the country reported that 83,944 vehicles passed their buses illegally -- that’s more than 15 million violations by motorists on U.S. roads in a typical 180-day school year.’ [*2]
That’s 83,944 times a student between the ages of 5 and 18 could have been injured or killed.
And if that staggering statistic doesn’t give you pause, let’s hit closer to home: my own child and another student were crossing the street one day in CHP to get on their school bus – which was stopped, with red lights flashing and stop sign arm extended. They were almost hit by a car speeding up Gauley Drive, which illegally passed the school bus on the opposite lane. The only thing that stopped the kids from getting run over was the bus driver, who - from her higher-seated perspective - saw the car coming and began frantically honking the horn and yelling to the children.
I’m sure other parents in the neighborhood have similar stories.
For All Residents:
Chestnut Hill Plantation is a community, and as such, we look out for each other. If at any time you see something suspicious around bus stops, or notice strangers talking to students as they walk to and from the bus stops, Please SAY SOMETHING. If possible, get a picture of the person or their car, and report it to the police.
If you see cars illegally passing a stopped school bus that has its RED LIGHTS FLASHING and the BUS STOP SIGN EXTENDED, please snap a picture and pass it along to the police.
Please do your part to help to keep our neighborhood – and especially our children - safe.
[*1] 2012 South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 56 - Motor Vehicles
Chapter 5 - UNIFORM ACT REGULATING TRAFFIC ON HIGHWAYS
Section 56-5-2530 - Stopping, standing or parking prohibited in specified places; exceptions.
[*2] Forbes online, ‘Passing Stopped School Buses Can Be Dangerous And Fatal, More Than 80,000 Violations Occur Each Day’ by Tanys Mohn.