Practice Safety in School Zones

Sep 01, 2017

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over the past 10 years, 44 children and teens in the U.S. were killed in school zones traveling to or from school. School zones are put in place to ensure the safety of children in and around schools. All children should be able to walk or bike to and from class without fear of being hit by passing vehicles. The number one rule for a driver to remember about school zones is to be aware of them.

Numerous warning signs, reduced speed limit signs, flashing lights, and/or speed bumps precede almost all school zones. The speed limit in school zones will be significantly lower than what is posted on other areas of the same roadway. Depending on the type of roadway the school zone is in, this speed limit could be as low as ten or fifteen miles per hour. 

Expect increased traffic in and around school zones, especially between seven and nine in the morning and two and four in the afternoon. These are the times when parents and buses are delivering kids to the school or picking them up after class is over. School zones will have marked crosswalks for pedestrians and vehicles need to always yield to pedestrians on the road, even those who are not using the marked crosswalks. 

Crossing guards, people who have the legal authority to halt traffic in order to let students and parents cross the road safely, often control crosswalks on busy roadways in school zones. Be aware that most states and municipalities impose more severe fines for breaking traffic laws within school zones.  Many areas double or triple speeding fines in and around school zones. Please understand that these increases are meant to dissuade drivers from risking the lives of young children because they are in a hurry or are not paying attention while driving through school zones. 

Buses often have a difficult time navigating the increase in traffic during the mornings and afternoons in school zones. Being on the lookout for school buses on the road is important for drivers of all ages. Many drivers are confused about the exact school bus laws and proper right of way rules. In fact, it is estimated that over 50,000 motorists illegally pass buses every single day. 

Chapter 304 of the Missouri Revised Statutes outlines the traffic regulations, which apply to drivers who encounter school buses on the road. When approaching a stopped school bus from either direction, the driver of the approaching vehicle is required to stop before reaching the bus if the school bus has indicated its intention to receive or discharge passengers by use of the signaling devices. The driver is to remain stopped until the bus has retracted its warning signals and resumed motion or until signaled by the bus driver to proceed. On highways with divided roadways or with four or more lanes of traffic, only those vehicles traveling in the same direction as the school bus are required to stop when the warning signals are engaged. 

Drivers should also remember that school buses will activate their warning lights and come to a full stop before crossing railroad tracks. Never pass a parked school bus on the right, where children enter or exit.

Approximately 25 million students nationwide begin and end their day with a trip on a school bus. School buses are nearly eight times safer than passenger vehicles. A majority of bus-related deaths and injuries involve pedestrians — mostly children — who are struck by a bus or injured when they are exiting the bus to cross traffic. School buses are the safest way for students to travel, but children also need to do their part to stay alert and aware of their surroundings to prevent injury. 

NSC urges parents to teach their children the following safety rules for getting on and off the bus, and for exercising good behavior while riding.

Getting on the Bus:
● When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness
● Do not stray onto the street, alleys or private property
● Line up away from the street or road as the bus approaches
● Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before approaching the bus
● Use the handrail when boarding

Behavior on the Bus:
● If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up
● Don't speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver
● Stay in your seat
● Don't put head, arms or hands out the window
● Keep aisles clear of books and bags
● Keep belongings together before reaching your stop
● Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from seat

Getting Off the Bus:
● Use the handrail when exiting
● If you have to cross in front of the bus, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver
● Make sure the driver can see you
● Wait for a signal from the driver before crossing
● When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes
● If vision is blocked, move to an area where you can see other drivers and they can see you
● Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver signals it is safe
● Stay away from the rear wheels of the bus at all times

Recently there has been a debate on whether school buses should contain seatbelts. School buses use a unique technology called compartmentalization—a passive occupant protection system. School bus seats are made with an energy-absorbing steel inner structure and high, padded seat backs, are secured to the school bus floor. Students are protected within the seating compartment much like eggs in a carton. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has investigated school bus crashes in which children were injured and even killed. These were typically side-impact crashes or high-speed rollovers. 

In these accidents, compartmentalization was not enough to prevent all injuries; for some of the children involved, a seat belt could have lessened their injuries or even saved their lives. As a result of school bus crash investigations, NTSB believes—and has recommended—that, when investing in new school buses the purchased vehicles should provide children with the best protection available, which includes 3-point seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated its support for lap and shoulder belts on buses in 2015, and National Safety Council has joined in support of this position. Parents can find more bus safety tips and Fort Osage school district bus route links at

About the Writer

Shayna Heathman


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