JACKSON ― As daylight hours continue growing shorter and impacting roadway visibility, the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents reminds motorists to be mindful of school buses making their way through neighborhoods and to watch out for children waiting at bus stops.
MASS is joining forces with schools, parents, law enforcement agencies and others to promote safe driving practices during National School Bus Safety Week Oct. 17-21.
“This time of year, school buses are most active during early mornings and late afternoons when it’s darker outside,” said Phil Burchfield, MASS executive director. “When you combine that with impatient drivers or drivers distracted by cell phones, the consequences could be tragic. One second of inattention or recklessness can cost a life, and in every case, such tragedies are 100% preventable.”
As part of the annual safety week campaign, MASS is building on its award-winning “30 Seconds Can Save a Lifetime” initiative with website and social media posts, print and radio advertising, news features and other forums to reach as many Mississippians as possible. The theme is based on the average time it takes for students to get on or off their school buses at bus stops.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. School buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road and are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries. In every state, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.
The greatest risk to children is not riding a bus but approaching or leaving one. 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.
MASS also is reminding drivers that there are serious consequences for disobeying the law. In 2011, the State Legislature passed Nathan’s Law, which was named for a 5-year-old Jones County boy who was killed by a driver passing a stopped school bus.
In addition to higher fines, motorists will be charged with a felony if their illegal action results in injury or death. The law also allows school districts to mount cameras on stop arms to help identify offenders.
“By raising awareness about school bus safety, each of us has the power to prevent a tragedy,” Burchfield said. “The message of the ‘30 Seconds Can Save a Lifetime’ campaign is that all of us are responsible for roadway safety and for making sure that children return home safely every day to their homes and families. Put your cell phones away, keep your eyes on the road and obey traffic laws. It’s that simple.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes school bus safety tips for parents, students and motorists at https://www.nhtsa.gov.
The Mississippi Association of School Superintendents and the Alliance of Educational Leaders of Mississippi is a non-profit association whose membership is made up of 139 public school superintendents and more than 2,000 public school administrators. Its mission is to provide resources, advocacy, leadership, policy information, training, support, renewal, and public relations services that improve the quality of public education.