By: Amy Watkins, MPH
Across the country, people are talking about school bus stop safety. Tragically, in a short three-day span, crashes took the lives of five children at their bus stops. This makes us wonder, are we doing enough to ensure children’s safety as they travel to and from school?
There were 600 crashes involving school buses from January through August of this year, according to the Connecticut Crash Data Repository. Though most (524) resulted in property damage alone, at least six students were hit by vehicles while going to and from their bus stops. Thankfully, none of the children were killed, but they were injured.
Since 2015, six adults were killed in five crashes involving school buses in our state. Three were drivers or passengers of other vehicles involved in the crashes, two were adult pedestrians, and one was a bus driver killed last year in Avon when a tree fell onto the bus.
Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center has promoted school bus stop safety for years. In 1996, Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH and colleagues published a study in the journal Pediatrics that examined the effectiveness of pavement stencils at bus stops to give children a visual marker of a safe area to stand. In “Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Pavement Stencil in Promoting Safe Behavior Among Elementary School Children Boarding School Buses,” the authors reported that use of the stencil, coupled with brief education about safe bus stop behavior, made children less likely to step out of the safety zone at a bus stop and increased their safety.
Many interventions, such as the bus stop stencil, are low-cost and can be easily implemented. Another is education. Parents and providers should talk to children about safe school bus practices. Connecticut Children’s published a blog in August 2018 with easy tips for parents and drivers. As drivers, we should know the law: stop your car when you see lights flashing on a school bus. Yellow flashing lights are a warning that the bus is about to stop. Red flashing lights indicate that the bus is stopped and students are getting on or off. Don’t start driving until the red lights stop flashing.
Often, tragedy strikes when drivers do not stop for a school bus even when lights are flashing or a stop arm is deployed. Reasons involve a driver’s lack of attention – possibly due to distraction – and other factors such as speeding. When driving, slow down, put the phone away, and stay alert for other vehicles as well as pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the road. If your child must cross the street to get to their bus stop, consider requesting a pick-up point that does not require crossing lanes of traffic.
Our thoughts are with the families who lost their loved ones this week. We hope that these tragic deaths cause us all to slow down, pay attention, and drive with care to create safer streets for our children.
Amy Watkins, MPH is the program coordinator for Watch for Me CT, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center.
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Categories: Injury Prevention