School buses – and children dashing to catch them, or to scurry home at the end of the day – are fanning out across the region this week as classes resume in most districts, raising traffic volume on Luzerne County’s roads and upping potential risks. Stay alert when approaching the bright yellow shuttles, school zones and any other spots where students and traffic intersect (including, perhaps, your driveway).
Remember, certain teen motorists will be making their first trips to school parking lots this fall; some of these novice drivers might be inattentive, others reckless. Likewise, plenty of young people will be walking and riding bikes between home and school.
Be on the lookout for hazards. Slow down. And heed the advice – issued to adults and students – in back-to-school alerts supplied by the state Department of Transportation and other safety-conscious groups. For instance, PennDOT reminds drivers: “It is mandatory that motorists stop at least 10 feet away from the school bus and wait until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm has been withdrawn before moving again.
“Motorists should not resume motion until the children have reached a place of safety.”
Violators of the state’s School Bus Stopping Law face penalties, potentially including a 60-day driver’s license suspension, five points on their driving record and a $250 fine, according to PennDOT.
Of course, students need to exercise some responsibility, too. If you have a school-age son or daughter, take a few minutes at the start of the school year to review basic rules of travel (whether by bus, foot, bike or car).
Riders should get to the bus stop about 5 minutes before its scheduled arrival. Stand three giant steps (about 6 feet) away from the curb, advises PennDOT. Before approaching the bus, wait until it stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s OK to board. While on the bus, don’t hop from seat to seat. After exiting the bus, walk only in the areas from which you can see the driver, which means the driver also can see you.
Will your young child be walking to school? Ensure he or she knows the route and is mature enough to behave responsibly; walk the route with the child for the first week or until you know he or she can go independently. Find another student in the neighborhood who can be a walking partner, or initiate a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of students. If toting a backpack, it “should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight,” advises the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Biking? Better wear a helmet and know your hand signals. Bright-colored clothing will make you more visible to drivers.
Traveling by car or truck? Seatbelts and car safety seats, yes. Cellphone conversations, texting and other distractions, no, no no.
Without care involved, the school commute can end badly. That’s a lesson no student needs to learn the hard way.
Be cautious out there.