For young people getting around, this week is all about safety. National Teen Driver Safety Week began Sunday, and National School Bus Safety Week, which is held the third full week of October annually, began Monday.
Safety on the road, of course, is something we should practice year-round, not just one week out of the year, but these serve as good reminders of the importance of such things.
Carroll County Public Schools conducts bus evacuation drills twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, to ensure students know what they need to do in case of an emergency, practicing how to exit the bus from the front and back in an orderly fashion.
Riding in a school bus is very safe – eight times more safe than traveling in a passenger vehicle, in fact. But when it comes to bus safety, it's less about the people on the bus, and more about the drivers around it. The Maryland Highway Safety Office reports about 19 students are killed each year in the U.S. boarding or getting off the bus.
On one day this past spring when school bus drivers were asked to pay special attention, they counted 106 stop arm violations. There were 93 during the 2016 count. While the number of violations statewide has been cut in half since the survey began in 2011, according to data from the Maryland State Department of Education, it's unbelievable to us that about 100 motorists in Carroll County and more than 3,000 statewide selfishly risk children's lives each day.
The law is clear, and so is the message from the National Association of Pupil Transportation — #StopOnRed. Slow down when buses' yellow lights come on and come to a complete stop about 20 feet from the rear or front of the bus once flashing red lights come on and the stop arm is extended. Wait until the lights are off before proceeding.
Parents can also take steps to help reduce their child's risk when getting on and off the bus. Students getting to the bus stop on time means they won't be darting out into traffic if they are running late. Wait for the bus on the sidewalk, if possible, and never in the road. And remind children to cross in front of the bus, not the back, if necessary, to make sure the bus driver can see you at drop off.
For parents of teens who are too cool for the school bus, National Teen Driver Safety Week is a good opportunity to talk to their young drivers about being careful on the road, too.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the U.S. In 2015, the latest data available, there were 1,972 teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes, resulting in 2,207 deaths nationwide, including 1,730 teens, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An estimated 99,000 teen drivers were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
One suggestion is creating a parent-teen driving agreement, including ground rules related to the greatest hazards for teens behind the wheel, including driving distracted or drowsy, passenger limits and speeding. Auto club AAA has an example agreement posted on its Keys2Drive web page at teendriving.aaa.com/MD, along with other tips and resources to help parents become effective in-car coaches and manage their teen's driving privileges.
Whether riding the bus or behind the wheel, parents should make sure their children are thinking about safety so they get where they are going in one piece and also set a good example themselves by not passing school buses and obeying the same rules of the road they would expect their young drivers to follow.