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Back to School Means More Traffic, Buses, Kids on the Roads

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay

Each school day, approximately 2.3 million students ride to school on some 50,000 school buses across the state.

With the start of school this week in most Central and Northern New York communities, drivers are encouraged to slow down and to be on the lookout for children crossing near school buses, in neighborhoods, and around school zones.

Taking a few extra moments and driving more cautiously can prevent a tragedy from occurring.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles.

They’re also considered the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school and help keep an annual estimated 17.3 million cars off roads surrounding schools each morning.

The National Safety Council reminds drivers of a few general safety precautions to help keep children safe:

·  Drivers should never pass a bus from behind if it is stopped to load or unload children.

·  If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.

· Drivers shouldn’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. This could force pedestrians to go around and put them in the path of moving traffic. Crosswalks are a common site for accidents.

· In a school zone when flashers are blinking, drivers should stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection and stop for a crossing guard holding up a stop sign.

· If behind a bus, drivers should allow for a greater following distance in comparison to a car. This provides drivers with more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Drivers should stop far enough away from the bus to allow students space to safely enter and exit the bus.

Children are often unpredictable, and may ignore hazards and take risks.

Motorists should come to a complete stop at a safe distance and wait for the flashing lights to turn off, the extended arm to be retracted and the bus to begin moving before proceeding.

Failure to abide by these rules can have serious consequences for drivers.

A first conviction of passing a school bus will result in a fine of $250 – $400, 5 points on a driver’s license, and/or up to 30 days in prison.

A second conviction within three years will result in a fine of $600 – $750, 5 points, and/or up to 180 days in prison.

A third or subsequent conviction within three years can result in fines of $750 – $1,000 and/or up to 180 days in prison.

In the worst case scenario, a tragedy can occur.

Parents can learn more about bus and pedestrian safety by visiting http://www.nhtsa.gov/School-Buses.

The traffic safety page provides tools and tips on how to teach children about school transportation safety.

Not only should drivers be extra cautious near buses but should also be on the lookout for kids walking to school or riding their bikes.

Distracted driving can and does play a role in many accidents and has become more of a problem with cell phone use.

To learn more about distracted driving, visit http://www.distraction.gov/

I wish students, parents, drivers, teachers, and administrators a safe and successful school year.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.