Study up on school bus safety this fall

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 12, 2017

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METRO DETROIT — Crowds of metro Detroit students will wait at their stops for the school bus this fall, but bus drivers are counting on motorists to also stop and take precautions so that everyone is safe.

AAA is urging drivers to act carefully for the new school year by driving slowly and vigilantly when in school zones to avoid hitting young pedestrians or bicyclists.

The agency says almost one in three deaths involving child pedestrians happened between 3 and 7 p.m. over the past 10 years.  Michigan saw 15 child pedestrian deaths and 69 child pedestrian injuries between the ages of 5-18 in 2016, AAA added.

Gary Bubar, AAA Michigan public affairs specialist, said the most important thing to remember regarding buses is that motorists should treat a school bus like a traffic signal.

“When they see the amber overhead lights go on, the red lights will be following shortly, and that indicates that the bus is picking up or dropping off children and that they should not pass a bus with the red lights on because children could be crossing,” Bubar said.

Bubar also said it’s illegal in most circumstances to pass a school bus that has its overhead lights on. Beyond that, it simply pays to be extra cautious since the bus driver already has so much to do.

“So the more that car drivers can make their jobs easier, the safer it will be for them, the school bus or the kids getting off or boarding the bus,” he said. 

Lori Richardson, director of transportation at Oakland Schools, also explained why drivers should be very cautious when they are near school bus stops. 

“Children can be very impulsive and unpredictable and may dart into the path of a vehicle without considering the consequences,” she said.  

Richardson further explained the amber and red lights on a school bus, adding that all motorists have to stop at least 20 feet from a bus with its overhead red lights on.

“Motorists may only proceed after the school bus driver has closed their door, and the red lights and stop sign are deactivated,” she said.

“It is also important to know that many school buses perform hazard light stops, displaying the amber lights located near the head and tail lights.  Students do not cross the road at hazard light stops and vehicles are not required to stop but still should proceed with caution.”

In addition, AAA asks drivers to heed speed limits around schools and truly stop at stop signs. They should also put away distractions like cellphones as well as check blind spots before backing up the vehicle. And cars should keep at least three feet of passing space from bikes, the agency added.

Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting