NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — As summer draws to a close, back-to-school season is in full effect. Safety should be a priority for everyone as children return to classrooms this fall.
It is important for everyone, not just parents and students, to stay up-to-date on the proper safety precautions involving school zones and buses.
School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation on the road today. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle and 10 times safer than walking to school. The reality of school bus safety is that more children are hurt outside the bus than inside as passengers. Most of the children from four to seven years old, who lose their lives in bus-related crashes, are pedestrians they are hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus. For this reason, it is necessary to know the proper laws and procedures for sharing the road safely with school buses:
- Nevada law states drivers must stop for a school bus when it puts on its flashers and stops. This applies to traffic in both directions.
- The only time drivers are not required to stop is if they are driving in the opposite direction, and there is a divided highway or roadway separating vehicles from the side of the road the bus is on. Drivers on the opposite side of the street as the bus are allowed to pass at a safe speed.
- Violations involving improper passing of a school bus can result in a fine of not less than $250 or more than $500.
- Second offense within one year, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $250 or more than $500 and the driver’s license of the person must be suspended for six months.
- For a third or any subsequent offense within two years after the most recent offense, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 and the driver’s license of the person must be suspended for not more than one year.
Nevada school zone speed limit is 15 mph. Special speed limit signs are posted around schools to alert drivers as they enter the zone. These signs have flashing lights to tell drivers when the lower speed limit is in effect and to indicate when drivers have left the school zone. There will also be extra heavy traffic from parents picking up or dropping their children at school.
The assumption is no one would intentionally speed in a school zone or pass a school bus. The primary reason that drivers break these rules is lack of attention. If a driver travels five blocks and can’t remember anything changes are the driver may have been distracted. Day dreaming, listening to music, or talking on a cell phone are a few examples of activities that distract drivers. Drivers must keep focused on driving and make other activities secondary. This will increase awareness on flashing speed limit sign, stopped school bus, or the school crossing guard in a reflective yellow vest, all designed to tell drivers to slow down or pay attention.
Drivers should increasingly keep an eye out for students, who are often plugged into their MP3 players or smartphones and tuned out of the real world and its hazards. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, between 2008 and 2012, there was a 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries for teens between the ages of 16 to 19. Be overly aware when driving in neighborhoods, close to schools or in school zones that many teenagers may not be paying attention.
For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov.