Students, motorists advised to watch for school buses

OSCEOLA/MECOSTA COUNTIES — With the start of the new school year, the rumbling sound of school buses will be a common part of mornings and afternoons for students, parents and community members.

Officials have a few tips to keeping everyone on the roads safe throughout the academic year.

“Children are often eager to get on and off the bus because they are excited to get to school and they also are excited to get home and tell their parents about their day,” Osceola County Undersheriff Justin Halladay said in a press release. “The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office encourages drivers to cut down distractions and concentrate on the road as kids of all ages get back to school.”

Halladay encourages students to arrive early to the bus stop, stay seated while the bus is moving, never walk behind the bus and never pick up something that may have dropped while the bus is stopped. Students should wait until the bus leaves before picking up anything that could have fallen.

Michigan State Police Trooper Brian Lucha echoed the tips, adding students waiting for the bus should stay away from the street, remain in clear view of the bus driver, stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and they are signaled to board and should not run and play while waiting for the bus to arrive.

Lucha said children also should walk to school or the bus stop with someone, if possible, mind all traffic signals and crossing guards and never cross a street against a light, even if there is no traffic.

“These tips are important to maintaining the overall safety for students and drivers on the road,” he said.

Other tips highlighted in Halladay’s press release included:

For students

• Once on board the bus, proceed quickly to a seat and stay sitting until the bus arrives at school or other drop-off locations.

• Always walk on the sidewalk when preparing to cross the street near a bus. Make eye contact with the driver to ensure visibility.

• When walking beside the bus, stay at least 10 feet (10 “giant” steps) away.

• Take extra precautions to make sure that clothing with drawstrings and book bags do not get caught in the hand rail or door.

For motorists

• Remember children are unpredictable in their actions. Take extreme caution when traveling in a school zone.

• If living in an area without sidewalks, drive cautiously. Be more alert to the possibility of children walking in the road.

• Be more aware of children playing near school bus stops.

• Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.

• Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.

• Reduce any distractions inside the car to concentrate on the road and surroundings.

• Put the down phone. Don’t talk or text while driving.

• Slow down and prepare to stop whenever yellow school bus lights are flashing.

• Never pass a school bus when there are flashing red lights. This is a sign that children are getting on or off the bus. This is a law.

Traveling to and from school

• Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and, if possible, with intersections that have crossing guards.

• Parents should walk the route with children beforehand. Tell him or her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields and other places where there aren’t many people around.

• Teach children never to talk to strangers, accept rides or gifts from strangers, commonly referred to a people who parents and children do not know well or do not trust.

• Be sure children walk to and from school or the bus stop with a sibling, friend or neighbor.

• Teach kids to obey all traffic signals, signs and traffic officers, whether walking, biking or riding the bus to school. Remind students to be extra careful in bad weather.

• When driving kids, deliver and pick them up as close to the school as possible. Don’t leave until they are in the schoolyard or building.

• Child riding their bikes to school should wear a helmet that meets safety standards. Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85%.

• Children riding scooters to school should wear sturdy shoes, a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads. Children under 12 years old should not ride motorized scooters.

• Be sure children know their home or parents’ cell phone number(s) and address. They also should know where their parents work, the work phone number, the phone number of another trusted adult and how to call 911 for emergencies.