Make the grade on school bus safety

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published September 11, 2018

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METRO DETROIT — Properly stopping and driving carefully around school buses is a lesson too important to fail.

Gary Bubar, AAA Michigan public affairs specialist, said the start of September is a good time for drivers to get back into the swing of following the rules and showing consideration around buses.

“We have buses and children out there at this time of the morning that we’ve not had for several months, so it’s almost like a new year every year,” he said. 

Bubar said the school year also means roads are usually busier before and after school hours. And according to AAA, pedestrian travel to and from school kills around 100 kids and injures around 25,000 annually. Federal statistics show 6-7 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. as the most dangerous time periods, AAA said.

Shellie Simmons, owner of Alpine Driving School in Southfield, said her students remember what to do after she tells them the proper driving procedures around school buses.

“We tell them that when the overhead lights are flashing yellow, they need to be prepared to stop,” she said. “But when the lights are flashing red, it’s stop completely.”

Simmons said vehicles should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus. She added that the only time vehicles don’t have to stop is when a road is divided by a median, and the bus is on the opposite side of the median. Otherwise, drivers may only cautiously move past the bus once its flashing yellow hazard lights turn on, she said.  

However, Bubar said some cars still don’t follow these rules. 

“Very often it’s just the driver isn’t paying attention and doesn’t see the lights on the bus,” he said.

AAA is reminding motorists not to let distractions like cellphones or food keep their eyes off the road. They add that the process of getting kids out the door every morning can be its own form of distraction for some parents. 

According to the auto agency, even two seconds of distraction doubles the odds of a collision. Drivers must always abide by the speed limits, including in school zones. 

Because it’s against the law to roll past stop signs, drivers should brake completely and look for crossing kids. Drivers should also be vigilant about blind spots and go very slowly when reversing.

One of the most dangerous spots is a school zone where buses are loading and dropping off kids, and Bubar advised caution. 

“Parents need to be reminded that they’re driving around schools with lots of children,” he said. “There’s going to be children walking in and around the cars.” 

Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting michigan.aaa.com. Alpine Driving School in Southfield may be reached by calling (248) 663-2297.