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Back to school! Pay attention to school bus safety rules

Parents and children have returned to the groove of the school year all over Georgia. But after a summer of fun and freedom, it can be challenging to remember all the rules of the road pertaining to school bus safety.

It's a good idea for drivers and schoolchildren alike to review the basic safety rules that can keep everyone safer on the roads during the school year commute.

A dangerous year

The 2018-2019 school year was fraught with danger for kids riding the school bus. In the six months between the start of school last August and March of this year, a dozen children died and 47 were injured when they attempted to either get on or disembark from their school buses.

This happened despite the school buses having their stop-arms deployed and extended. That is the signal to motorists to stop until the children have cleared the roadway and the arm is lifted.

Stop: It's the law

Under Georgia law, motorists are required to stop when the flashing red lights are on and the stop signs are extended from the bus. They cannot pass a bus when it is stopped to let kids on and off of it.

Drivers who fail to stop face fines as high as $1,000, may have to appear in court and can be penalized by as much as six points on their drivers' licenses.

Failing to stop can lead to injuries and deaths

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services states that each day, there is the potential for injuries and deaths from school bus accidents.

The Department of Education (DoE) in another state takes one day a year to record incidents of motorists flouting the law and brazenly passing stopped school buses. By their estimates, as many as 15 million drivers may be illegally passing buses stopped to let schoolchildren climb aboard or clamber off their buses.

A week of bus accident tragedies

Last year, during a single week in autumn, five students died and another half-dozen suffered injuries in five accidents caused by motorists passing school buses that had stopped.

In Indiana, a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old twin siblings suffered fatal injuries in an accident that also injured another child as they waited to board their stopped school bus.

The following day, a Mississippi boy, age 9, died crossing the highway to catch his bus and a Florida kindergartner suffered injuries after being hit by a driver while crossing the street.

But the carnage continued, as the following day, five students at a Tampa bus stop were hit, along with two adults, when a speeding motorist struck them.

On the same day in Pennsylvania, a hit-and-run driver killed a second-grader as he waited at his bus stop. When the bus arrived, the student was lying dead by the bus stop.

Combating the problem

Georgia, along with 21 other states, have laws on their books where cameras record motorists who disregard the buses' extended stop-arms.

In an interview last year with School Transportation News, the president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services said, "There are a multitude of options out there. There's not one silver bullet ... other than the simplest silver bullet — motorists need to pay attention to what's going on around them."

Take swift action after a school bus accident

If your child was injured in an accident while riding the school bus, as a parent, you have the duty to seek care for your child. Pursuing a claim for damages from the at-fault driver(s) can offset some of the medical costs and other expenses.

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