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. 18-22.
“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.”
As part of this year’s campaign, MASS is building upon 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.
“We chose ‘30 Seconds Can Save a Lifetime’ to remind drivers that the decisions they make at bus stops have real consequences because real lives are involved,” Burchfield said. “Each child on the bus has a home, a family, and a future full of hopes, dreams and aspirations. Waiting for them to safely get on and off the bus is time we are investing in their lives and their futures.”
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.
“Through the ‘30 Seconds Can Save a Lifetime’ campaign, we’re asking everyone to use whatever forums are available — classrooms, churches, sports activities, neighborhood groups, civic clubs — to talk about school bus safety and to educate their families and people in their communities,” Burchfield said. “Just spending a few moments reminding others about school bus safety could help prevent tragedies.”
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.