Buses, pedestrians serve as back-to-school safety test for motorists

As the first school bell rings, Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials are urging motorists to be ready to stop for school buses and be watchful for children exiting school buses and crossing streets.

Last year in Minnesota, there were 615 bus crashes that resulted in one death (no children) and 214 injuries (of which 75 were student bus occupants). In the last five years, crashes involving school buses resulted in 21 traffic deaths of which four were school bus student occupants and three were children who were outside a bus and hit by other vehicles.

In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 school bus trips daily. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicle.

“Kids are very safe in school buses, and to keep them safe, motorists need be paying attention and take extreme caution for children exiting buses,” says Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol.

DPS reminds motorists to anticipate children, especially in a school bus “danger zone” — the area around a bus where children are at greatest risk. Parents should also discuss and demonstrate pedestrian safety with their children and reinforce safe crossing after exiting a bus.

In Minnesota, motorists must stop for red flashing lights and when stop arms are extended — both when driving behind a bus and when coming toward a bus on undivided roads.

Bus Safety Tips for Children:

·When getting off a bus, look to be sure no vehicles are passing on the shoulder (side of the road).

·Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the bus, and make eye contact with the driver.

·Wait for the driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.

·Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.


Pedestrian Safety Tips:

·Cross only at intersections or crosswalks.

·Obey all traffic signs and signals.

·Do not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is too close or moving too fast to stop safely.

·Remember, the law requires pedestrians take responsibility for their own safety.


Motorist Safety Tips:

·Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

·Red flashing lights on buses indicates students are either entering or exiting the bus.

·Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.) — but they should remain alert for children.

·Altering a route or schedule to avoid a bus is one way motorists can help improve safety. In doing so, motorists won’t find themselves behind a bus and as a result, potentially putting children at risk.

·Watch for school crossing patrols and pedestrians. Reduce speeds in and around school zones.

·Watch and stop for pedestrians — the law applies to all street corners, for both marked and unmarked crosswalks (all street corners). Treat every corner as a crosswalk.

About the Office of Traffic Safety

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements, and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for motorcycle safety programs and child seats for needy families.

OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

Office of Traffic Safety Highlights

·A statewide DWI crackdown ran Aug. 17–Sept. 3. Results from the effort will be announced the week of Sept. 10.

·23,285 speeders were ticketed during a July statewide speed campaign.

·OTS issued the 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report, citing 368 traffic deaths for the year, the lowest since 1944 and a 44 percent reduction in deaths from a decade ago.

·OTS recognized the state’s DWI Enforcer All-Stars at Target Field June 25. The leading DWI enforcer is Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Mark Hibbard with 241 DWI arrests in 2011.

·July 1 marked one year of the state’s ignition interlock DWI sanction. More than 4,000 DWI offenders are using ignition interlock to benefit road safety and ensure legal, sober driving.