Recent bus stop deaths have made national headlines
Many parents watch anxiously as the school bus pulls away, watching for their son or daughter’s face in the window, worried the driver will get into an accident, or someone else will crash into the bus. Another danger often overlooked is that of children waiting at bus stops, and crossing streets to board school buses.
Over the past few weeks, at least five children were killed and several injured when they were hit by vehicles at the bus stop or while trying to board the bus.
Three incidents in particular drew national attention, led by an incident in Indiana. On October 30, 2018 three children – twin six year old boys and their eleven year old sister – were killed when struck by a pickup truck while they were crossing the street to board the school bus. The bus had its lights flashing and the stop sign arm extended. The twenty-four year-old driver told authorities that she saw the flashing lights but did not realize it was a school bus until it was too late. She pled not guiltyto charges of reckless homicide on November 15, 2018.
That same week, a nine year-old boy died in Mississippi when he was hit by a pickup truck while crossing the two lane highway to board the bus, which also had flashing lights and warning signs. In Pennsylvania, a seven year-old boy was found dead at the bus stop. It was later determined that he had been struck by a vehicle.
Massachusetts School Bus Safety
According to mass.gov nearly 400,000 Massachusetts students are transported by school buses every year, with relatively few injuries and deaths. Bright yellow school buses are among the most recognizable vehicles on the road. If you see one slowing or stopping, common sense should tell you to pay attention and proceed with caution, but what are the Massachusetts-specific laws regarding school bus safety?
The speed limit for all active school zones in Massachusetts is 20 mph. Fines are doubled for violating the speed limit in a school zone.
Drivers are required to come to a complete stopwhile students are boarding or exiting a school bus. How do you know? The school bus lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is extended. It does not matter which side of the road you are traveling on or how many lanes there are, (unless travelling the opposite direction on a divided highway- where physical barriers separate travel directions). You may not proceed until those signals have been deactivated.
Even ambulance driver and police officers are required to abide by these laws (unless they are responding to an emergency). Bus drivers can report illegal passers to the police.
100 Ft. Distance
Every driver must keep back at least 100 feet from a school bus. This is equivalent to a 2 second following distance at 35mph – the bare minimum distance you should keep from any vehicle. This law applies even if the bus is not moving.
So what happens if you disobey the law?
While many drivers get away with illegally passing school buses, failing to stop or illegally passing a stopped school bus with flashing lights can result in a $250 fine in Massachusetts, at minimum. A second offense can lead to a fine of not less than $500, and that fine can go up to $2,000 and a suspended license of up to a year – or even revocation for subsequent offenses.
Some communities have even started pilot programs with surveillance cameras mounted on buses and in the stop signals to catch offenders. But more importantly, hurrying around a school bus or being inattentive to its signals can cause you to kill or injure a child.
In the end, it’s simple: Whenever you see a school bus, look for children, check your speed and keep your distance.
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