By Richard Rourk

Within the past week several children have been struck by vehicles throughout the United States while waiting on their school buses. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, the greatest risk to a child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. The website is full of tips on how to get children to school safely.

To help prevent accidents for drivers, when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school. When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people. Slow down and watch for children and be alert.

“Paying attention is key,” Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said.

Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic. Learn and obey the school bus laws in Tennessee, as well as the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off.

Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

“It is absolutely imperative that we do not pass these buses,” Tilson told The Erwin Record.

Children should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

Parents should visit the bus stop and show children where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Remind children that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.

Children may also want to wear bright colors and it may be a good idea to get a backpack that has reflective stripes.

When the school bus arrives, children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Children should use the handrails to avoid falling.

Children should never walk behind a school bus. If a child must cross the street in front of the bus, they should walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing.

Children should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see them. If a child drops something near the school bus, like a ball or book, the safest thing is for the child to tell the bus driver right away.

In a release from January 2018, NHTSA reported between 2006 and 2016, there were 216 pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes.

Among the 216 pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes, 163 were struck by school vehicles and 52 were struck by other vehicles.