COLUMBUS — National School Bus Safety Week kicks off around the country Monday, with this year’s theme: “My School Bus, The Safest Form of Student Transportation!”

In Ohio, school districts have been encouraged by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) to thank the transportation staff of their district for their dedication to safety, to share information with students, staff and parents about the importance of school bus safety, to share their success stories, and, if possible, to host open houses so the community can get to know its district’s transportation staff.

Doug Palmer, the former transportation supervisor at Napoleon Area City Schools, is a transportation consultant with OSBA who explained now is a great time for school districts to be proactive in promoting school bus safety to the public.

“One of the things we encourage school districts to do is to stage a school bus in a public place to promote safety week,” said Palmer. “That way, the public can take a look at a bus, see what it looks like, and see what their tax dollars are buying. In addition, we encourage local law enforcement to do ride-alongs on buses, to show the community that school districts and law enforcement work hand-in-hand when it comes to the safety of children.

“This week is also a good time to do school bus evacuation drills,” continued Palmer. “First of all, it’s a requirement that school districts do this once a year, but most importantly, it helps kids know where the exits are on a school bus, and the safest ways for them to exit a bus in the case of an emergency.”

When it comes to children safety and school buses, Palmer explained the biggest risk to students is at the bus stop.

“It takes a lot of extra attention for bus drivers to watch kids and keep an eye on drivers on the road,” said Palmer. “That’s why the biggest risk to kids is at the bus stop. Kids can be unpredictable, and if you have a person driving that doesn’t stop for a school bus, the situation can become catastrophic.”

Palmer explained that National School Bus Safety Week is also a good time to remind students that drive to school, and all drivers, the importance of paying attention while driving.

“For students who drive to school, they should be reminded about the responsibility of not driving while distracted, and to slow down and stop for buses,” said Palmer. “To be honest, that message is for all drivers. So many times someone will see the yellow lights on a bus and speed up to pass it before the lights turn red. Those lights are a warning system, not a yellow light to beat.

“It’s simple really, don’t speed up, there are children present,” added Palmer. “We know that children are unpredictable, so slowing down and being prepared to stop saves lives. This is especially true when the weather turns colder, because kids waiting at the bus stop will move closer to the road to see the bus better. Drivers need to be especially cautious when they see kids closer to the road.”

Palmer shared an example of how drivers should act when kids are waiting at the bus stop, think about what you do when they see a ball roll into the street.

“The only way to reduce accidents is to reduce unsafe acts,” Palmer said. “It’s like when a ball rolls into the street, almost all drivers will come to a stop because they expect a kid to run into the street after the ball. Bus stops are the same way, there are kids present, and again, they are unpredictable. The best course of action is to slow down and give yourself more time to brake, so accidents can be avoided.

“Keeping kids safe is the bottom line, and getting them to and from school safely is a big responsibility. It’s a responsibility all school districts take very seriously,” concluded Palmer.

For more information about National School Bus Safety Week, go to napt.org/nsbsw.

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