The return to school has been a little different this year for Alabama students. Because of safety concerns over COVID-19, many school districts are doing a hybrid approach in which there is some distance learning combined with in-person classes a couple days a week. In some cases, parents are choosing to keep their kids home at least for the first couple of months to do distance learning exclusively.
These modifications have forced school buses to shuffle their schedule around as well. Because of the staggered student schedules, there are not as many buses on the road each day as there would be in a normal year. But even with these changes, there are still well over 100,000 Alabama students that are riding the bus to and from school every day.
School buses are generally considered among the safest ways for a child to travel. Buses are massive vehicles that provide plenty of protection for passengers, and there are fewer fatalities (per hundred thousand miles traveled by bus) than most other modes of transportation.
Although school bus travel is generally pretty safe, accidents do happen, and some of those accidents result in serious injuries and fatalities. Perhaps the greater concern for kids, however, is the exposure to hazards when they walk to the bus stop in the morning, wait for the bus to arrive, and walk home after being dropped off in the evening.
With school back in full swing (or as close as we are going to get while dealing with a global pandemic), it is a good time to go over some safety tips to help avoid school bus accidents:
Leave for the Bus Stop Early
Parents, make sure your school-aged kids get out the door early and in plenty of time to make their bus. The last thing you want is for your child to be running to the bus stop at the last minute to avoid missing it. When this happens, there is a much greater risk of injuries from slipping and falling, or being hit by a vehicle as they are dashing across the street. A good rule of thumb is to make sure they get to the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled arrival.
Be Careful while Waiting for the Bus
Teach your kids to behave and avoid horseplay while they are waiting for the bus to arrive. For example, if they are wrestling around with other kids and one of them tumbles over the curb and into the street, they could end up in the face of oncoming traffic. Teach your kids to stay at least 10 feet away from the road, so they don’t risk falling in the street, and so that the bus driver can see them when he/she pulls up.
Board the School Bus Carefully
When the bus arrives, instruct your kids to wait for it to come to a complete stop and for the driver to open the door before proceeding on board. Board the bus slowly and use the handrails to maintain balance. Once in your seat, fasten your seatbelt and remain seated until you reach your destination.
Drive Slowly near School Buses
Whenever you see a school bus, slow down and proceed cautiously. When there are buses around, this means there are children nearby as well. In this type of situation, you want to make sure to drive slowly and give yourself enough time to react to something unexpected, such as a child running across the street.
Give the Buses Plenty of Space
When driving near buses, always give them enough space to perform their tasks safely. Buses frequently stop to pick up and drop off kids, and they are required to come to a complete stop at all railroad crossings.
Stay Free of Distractions
Motorists should avoid texting while driving in all circumstances, and especially when driving around school buses. When you are in a school zone, you should also avoid other distractions as much as possible, so you can stay focused on the road. Common distractions that could make it more hazardous to drive near school buses include eating, drinking, grooming, reading a GPS, and talking on the phone.
Follow Alabama School Bus Traffic Laws
It is very important to understand the Alabama laws around school and church buses, and follow them. In most situations, motorists are not allowed to pass a stopped bus. When driving behind a bus, drivers must stop when the signal arm is raised and remain stopped until it is lowered. The same rules usually apply if you are approaching a school or church bus from the opposite direction, unless you are traveling on a 4 or 6 lane highway in which the directional lanes are divided by a barrier or unpaved area.
Bear in mind that a growing number of Alabama school districts have installed stop arm cameras on their buses. This means you could be ticketed if there is video evidence that you are violating state traffic laws.
Injured in a School Bus Accident in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
Even if you follow all of the best safety practices for avoiding a school bus accident, you cannot control what others on the road will do. If you or someone close to you got injured in a vehicle accident that was someone else’s fault, Hedge Copeland, P.C. is here to help! For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at (251) 432-8844.