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Local schools discuss National School Bus Safety Week

In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, two of the local school districts explained a few of the methods they use to educate their students on school bus safety and the dangers that occur when motorists do not obey basic traffic laws.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation encouraged parents and motorists to practice school bus safety precautions with their children this week.
“We do safety drills on how to evacuate the bus and use the emergency exits,” said Picayune School District Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell, “All students do the drills because they will all be on the bus at one time or another.”
According to MDOT, drug and alcohol tests are administered to all school bus drivers, as well as proper CPR and first aid training. Safety is the main priority when schools hire drivers, but that’s only a part of what local schools are doing to help keep children safe.
“This week is another reminder to be mindful of the buses on the road, ” said Pearl River Central Transportation Director Lisa Beech.
Beech explained that students from kindergarten to fifth grade in PRC schools are trained on bus safety. The SOAR program – which stands for safe, orderly and respectful – informs children of the driver’s hand signals and teaches them the proper distance to keep away from the bus when boarding and disembarking.
“Most of the time students don’t get hurt on the bus, “ Beech said, “It’s the loading and unloading where the real danger occurs.”
A statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration supports this belief, claiming that students are 50 times more likely to arrive to school safely when riding a school bus than they are when riding with a student driver or parent.
School bus safety regulations are only half the battle, however. Motorists and parents must practice proper safety regulations as well. MDOT encourages parents to walk with their children to bus stops, and advises motorists to be aware of all school bus related traffic laws. Drivers are informed to slow down near regular bus stops and they should never pass a school bus on a road with only two lanes.
While the students were loading the buses at Picayune High School Friday afternoon, Assistant Principal Kerri Wilder mentioned that motorists would often pass stopping school buses despite seeing the flashing red lights on the bus.
“This happens right in the middle of a school zone,” Wilder said.
According to MDOT, any time a school bus is stopped and flashing its red lights, traffic is supposed to stop on both sides of the road, even along four-lane roadways, until all children are safely unloaded and across the street; traffic is not to resume until the bus starts moving again.
National School Bus Safety Week should serve as a reminder for motorists to exercise the personal responsibility to drive safely around bus stops when children are present.

BUS SAFETY: Picayune students load buses in the afternoon. Photo by Dart Spiers

BUS SAFETY: Picayune students load buses in the afternoon.
Photo by Dart Spiers