Living in a “rural county” means that a good number of Jefferson County-area youngsters ride the bus to school. They are among the 25 million students nationwide who collectively travel more than 4 billion miles via a total of 480,000 buses.

Students are about 70 times

American students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most-regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every state, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists. While school buses represent 25 percent of the miles traveled by students, they account for less than 4 percent of the injuries.

When there are school bus-related injuries or deaths, they usually take place as youngsters are getting on or off the bus. Thus, we’d like to remind both motorists and students of how to stay safe.

First, the motorists: Wisconsin law is clear in that as a driver, if you approach a legally-marked bus with flashing red warning lights, you must:

• Stop at least 20 feet from the bus. This applies both to vehicles approaching from the rear and from opposing lanes.

• All lanes of traffic must stop for the school bus except in opposing lanes if the highway is divided with a center median.

• No vehicle may proceed until the bus resumes motion and turns off their flashing red warning lights.

• The stop arm on the bus is an added communication device for other drivers but lack of the extended arm is not reason to pass a bus whose red lights still are flashing.

Now, parents of students. It is important to have your children adhere to the following guidelines:

• Have your child wait in a safe area away from traffic and the street.

• Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals for your child to board.

• When being dropped off, have your child take 10 giant steps away from the bus, remember that the bus driver can see your child better when they move away from the bus.

• Have your child always use the handrail when entering or exiting the bus and have them always remain seated until the bus stops. And be sure that clothing with drawstrings and bags with straps do not get caught in the rails or door.

• Stay away from the bus until the driver signals that it is okay to approach.

• Be aware of traffic on the roadway. Drivers are required to stop for all legal school buses, however, not all do. Have your child watch carefully before crossing the roadway. Remember in rural areas, the speed limit is greater and thus more difficult for a driver to stop quickly.

• Don’t run to catch the bus. Arrive at your stop at least five minutes early.

• Never walk behind a bus.

• If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up, because the driver might not be able to see you.

• While on the bus, remain seated at all times and keep the aisle clear. Keep your hands, arms and head inside the bus, talk quietly and always listen to your driver. Do not throw anything or distract the driver.

Carelessness, inattentiveness or poor behavior on — and off — the bus can lead to serious, if not deadly, consequences.

For everyone’s safety, we encourage motorists to clip this out and parents to sit down with their youngsters to review these simple, yet important, rules of the road.

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