CHARLESTON, WV — For twenty-three million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. National School Bus Safety Awareness Week is being observed this week, October 18-22, 2021, and it’s a great time for parents to talk with their children about safe habits in and around school buses. Additionally, this is an ideal time for motorists to be reminded of safe practices and their responsibilities when they encounter stopped school buses on roadways. The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) reminds drivers: Red Means Stop. Be Safe and Know the Danger Zone.

Parents, teachers, school bus drivers, and administrators teach students how to enter and exit school buses safely, as well as how to be safe while waiting at bus stops. It’s vitally important for students to follow safe habits and their school’s or bus driver’s rules when being transported to and from school.

Equally important are safe practices for drivers, as most motorists will encounter school buses in traffic while traveling.

The greatest risk for students is not riding the bus but approaching or leaving the bus. Each year, a one-day study is performed by each school district in the nation. All illegal school bus passes are recorded and compiled into a report. In 2019, there were 1,963 participating bus drivers who reported illegal passes in West Virginia. Of those illegal passes observed, 231 drivers passed from the front of the bus and 34 passed from the rear of the bus. In the same survey, 254 drivers passed on the left side of the bus while 11 drivers were observed passing on the right side of the stopped school bus.

If each observed passing resulted in a fatality, there would have been almost 800 children killed on one day in 2019 in West Virginia due to the negligence of drivers.

Nationally, on this one-day survey, 95,494 illegal passes of a stopped school bus were observed.

In an effort to help keep students safer on West Virginia roadways, the GHSP reminds drivers of these tips:

Slow down. Watch for children gathering near bus stops.
Obey the speed limit around schools. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch for students who may be focusing on getting to school instead of focusing on where they are walking.
Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch for students walking or bicycling to school.
Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload students. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
Red flashing lights and/or extended stop arms signal that the bus has stopped and that students are getting on or off. Drivers must stop their vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
“We encourage motorists to be especially vigilant around school zones and stopped school buses in traffic. Illegally passing a school bus not only carries legal consequences, it could be a matter of life and death for a child,” said GHSP Director Bob Tipton.

“Please slow down and exercise extreme caution when driving around schools or school buses. Remember: Red Means Stop. Be safe and know the danger zone,” Tipton concluded.

For more information about the survey, please visit http://www.nasdpts.org.

For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.