JACKSON ― Now that daylight hours are shorter, the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents reminds motorists to obey the law — and help prevent tragedies in their communities — by using caution when encountering school buses.
MASS is joining forces with schools, parents, law enforcement agencies and others to promote safe driving practices during National School Bus Safety Week Oct. 21-25.
“School buses are designed to keep students safe, but their safety features are no match for careless drivers,” said Phil Burchfield, MASS executive director. “This time of year, many students are picked up early in the morning when it’s still dark, which can affect visibility. Drivers should be extra cautious when they encounter school buses and make sure that distractions and impatience don’t cloud their judgment.”
Drivers in Mississippi are required to stop at least 10 feet from a school bus when the bus is loading or unloading children. They must not proceed until all children have crossed the street, flashing red lights are no longer activated and the stop sign on the side of the bus is retracted.
In December 2009, tragedy struck Jones County when 5-year-old Nathan Key was killed by a hit-and-run driver who had illegally passed his school bus. Two years later, the Mississippi Legislature passed Nathan’s Law to stiffen penalties for drivers convicted of illegally passing stopped school buses. It also allows school districts to mount cameras on stop arms to help identify offenders.
Last year, five children were killed in a three-day span in school bus-related incidents in the U.S., including 9-year-old Dalen Thomas of Mississippi, who was hit by a pickup truck on Oct. 31 as he boarded a school bus bound for Baldwyn Elementary in Lee County.
“The majority of drivers do what’s right when they see a stopped school bus,” Burchfield said. “I’d like to thank them for keeping our children safe, and I also encourage Mississippians to be advocates for school bus safety in their communities. Just spending a few moments reminding others about school bus safety could help avert tragedies.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes school bus safety tips for parents, students and motorists at https://www.nhtsa.gov.