Several years ago this month our community experienced the tragic deaths of three students riding one of our buses. I remember those students and their families every day, but most especially at this time of year.
Our community is not alone in experiencing tragedies in the spring of the year. The Kansas Department of Education presents a new study every year about school bus fatalities. The most recent report encompasses 38 years of data and the conclusions are as follows:
- During the last 38 years, 57.4% of students killed in school bus-related crashes were killed by their own bus.
- For 2007-2008, that statistic fell to 20% of fatalities caused by the school bus and 80% by passing motorists.
- 66.1% of all fatalities occurred on the way home from school.
- Most of the fatally-injured students were girls.
- 55.6% of the fatally-injured students were between the ages of 5 and 7 (67% were between the ages of 2 and 8) and another 21.2% were between the ages of 10 and 14.
- Thursdays are the most dangerous day of the week.
- Most fatal injuries occur between March and September.
Increased driver education, better technology, and smarter riders have dramatically reduced the incident of fatal injury; of the 45 fatalities since 2004, there were 5 students critically injured in the most recent year. To put the figures in perspective, consider that 800 students were fatally injured in other vehicles (the family car, a friend’s truck, etc.) during the school bus commute hours of 6-9 am and 2-5 pm. Clearly, the school bus is a safe place for students.
Still, five students were fatally injured. How to we prevent those types of injuries?
- We must expect drivers be consistent when approaching a school bus stop, using warning and stop signals appropriately.
- We must require drivers be vigilant at all times when students are outside the bus, whether approaching or leaving.
- We must require that drivers’ attention be solely focused on activity outside the bus rather than activity inside the bus.
- We must expand and repeat public education so motorists understand to STOP and STAY STOPPED when red lights flash.
- We must teach our students to remain out of the roadway until the driver signals them to approach.
- We must teach our students to exit the bus and walk immediately to their own driveway or designated safe location, again watching for the driver’s signal.
- We must expect law enforcement to ticket people who fail to obey stop arm signals.
We must expect the judicial branch to penalize those people who appear in court.
There are very few instances in life when there is no room for error. These critical seconds our students are outside their buses is one such instance!