School Bus Safety
During the school year, 350 buses are in service for Caddo Parish Schools. On average, about 22,000 pupils ride the bus every day, according to Otis Jones, director of transportation at Caddo Parish Public Schools.
The yellow school buses run year-round in Caddo Parish. Although their numbers seem a bit less during the summer months, two schools have year-round classes and school-age children also ride the bus to summer school and summer programs. During the summer, the district has 150 to 175 buses in operation. Drivers should be aware of children on their way to school every season of the year, including summer.
On average, about 22,000 pupils ride the bus every day, with 350 buses in service, according to Otis Jones, director of transportation at Caddo Parish Public Schools. When they are on the school bus, they are taking the safest form of transportation for children, far safer than private vehicles, Jones said recently.
School bus design plays a major factor in keeping passengers safe. The high backs keep children compartmentalized and cushioned in case of an accident, Jones explained. Seat belts on school buses would not increase safety for children.
"If you had 66 kindergarteners on a bus and it crashed into a lake and filled up with water, you would have to have someone equipped with a knife to cut the seat belts," he said.
Children are most vulnerable near buses when they are either getting on or getting off. Too many drivers "continue to run past buses when they are stopped and the stop arms are extended. Everything is supposed to freeze" when buses stop and put out their stop arms, Jones said. There is a $500 fine for not stopping.
Drivers tend not to pay attention when they pass buses. "They are talking on cell phones or texting," he said. He believes that drivers should pull over and stop if they need to communicate with others, not keep driving. He wishes all drivers would be as concerned for school bus riders as if the passengers were their own children.
Drivers who violate the state law in Caddo Parish may be in for a surprise before long. The Shreveport City Council, Caddo Parish Commission, and Caddo Parish School Board are considering a proposal to install video cameras on bus exteriors. Drivers who pass a loading bus may be contacted, cited, and fined. Knowing that there is a possibility of being filmed and paying a price for passing a bus, even when there is no cop in sight, may help keep children safe.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
If you're driving a vehicle and come upon any school bus stopped to receive or discharge school children that is displaying visual stop signals, stop no closer than 30 feet away. Do not continue on your way until the bus moves or the visual signals are de-activated. Failure to do so may result in a fine as much as $500, more if an injury results from your failure to stop.
By Lani Duke