Back to School – Child Pedestrian Safety

As another school year approaches, drivers will increasingly encounter school buses and pedestrian children as pedestrians on the roadways.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 245 children were killed in the United States as pedestrians in 2016.  Thousands more were injured.  You can help reduce child pedestrian crashes by following the law and a few simple guidelines.

It is the law in Virginia that motorists traveling in any direction must stop when approaching a school bus with its stop-arm extended, its red lights flashing, or if the bus is stopped to discharge or take on passengers, even if neither the stop-arm or the red lights are flashing.  Drivers must then remain “stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion.”  The only exception to this rule is where the school bus is stopped on the other side of a divided highway, separated by a physical barrier or an unpaved area.  A roadway with a turn lane down the middle and no other physical barrier or unpaved area does not count.

Failure to stop for a school bus can result in a charge of reckless driving, with penalties of a fine of up to $2,500.00 and/or confinement in jail for up to twelve months. More importantly, passing a stopped school bus is extremely dangerous for the children departing from or getting onto the bus.

Incredibly, drivers continue to illegally pass stopped buses with alarming frequency.  A 2018 survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services revealed 83,944 violations on a single day.  That data is based on the one-day observations of 108,623 bus drivers, or about 20% of all bus drivers in the country.  Based on this data, it is likely that there are tens of millions of violations each year.

Several heart-stopping “near-miss” videos from various states illustrate the dangers of passing a stopped bus:

In addition to obeying the law and common sense when it comes to stopping for school buses, here are few other tips for how you can keep children-pedestrians safe on the roadways:

  • Be cautious driving through neighborhoods
  • Obey special speed limits through school zones
  • Be cautious when operating your vehicle in reverse, such as when backing out of a driveway
  • Be alert for children doing the unexpected