Extra driving safety precautions for the school year

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 5, 2016

Picayune School District students load on the bus to go home in a safe and orderly manner.

Picayune School District students load on the bus to go home in a safe and orderly manner.

Roads in Pearl River County are becoming more crowded as summer comes to a close, filled with school buses and teen drivers. Drivers should be aware of the added traffic and pay close attention to their surroundings.
Picayune School District Director of Bus Routing Margaret Porter said she is concerned about school transportation safety.
“The main issue is time. Everyone is in a hurry to either get to work or get home from work and sometimes don’t make the best decisions. Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings and take their time, especially in a school zone,” Porter said.
In the Picayune School District, Porter said 70 percent of students ride the 41 buses the district has.
In the Pearl River County School District, Director of Transportation Lisa Beech said about 2,500 out of the 3,200 students ride the bus to school. PRC School District has 35 buses with three special needs routes and one alternative route.
Also, the Poplarville School District Director of Transportation Ed Sternod said they have 1,400 kids who ride the 25 buses that make 750 stops twice a day.
The most dangerous place for students to be is near the road when close to campus. According to the National Safe Routes to School Program, cars near schools hit more children than any other location, which is something Beech is concern about.
“When students are waiting for their bus at either the bus stops or on their campus, they need to stay a good distance away from the road. Sometimes when the bus is close, children cannot see what is behind the bus. Being patient whether you are a commuter or a student is a great way to stay safe,” Beech said.
Nathan’s Law states that motorist must stop at least 10 feet from a school bus when loading or unloading children. Motorists also must not move until all the children have crossed the road to a safe distance and the lights on the bus have stopped flashing or the stop sign has retracted, according to a release from the Mississippi Department of Education.
Previous Item coverage states that violations of the law can result in a fine of $750 for the first offense, whether or not a child is harmed. If a child is hurt, the driver can face up to 20 years in prison.
“If one student gets hurt, it affects the whole county. He or she might have relatives or friends countywide. It happens a lot that people try to go around a bus that has stopped or is about to stop and get hit head on by another car they didn’t see. People need to be very careful,” said Sternod.
He also said that school buses are required by law to go no faster than 45 miles per hour and asks the community to be courteous of them while on the road.
“People need to be aware that by law, school buses cannot turn right at a red light. Also, they have to stop before crossing over railroad tracks. This is where a lot of accidents happen,” said Porter.
A press release from the Mississippi Department of Transportation states that there are resources for driver safety education programs for teens and parents and teachers like the Survive Your Drive Y’all education program and the SRTS program. For more information about the programs and driver safety, go to GoMDOT.com/safetyeducation.

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