11/14/2018

Help us end deaths at the bus stop

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A series of crashes near school bus stops has killed at least five children this month. The collisions in Indiana, Mississippi, Florida and Pennsylvania are renewing concerns about distracted driving. For AFT members and affiliates, these tragedies have created an urgency to revive the AFT’s school bus safety campaign, Stop for the Bus: Our Kids Are Worth the Wait.

School bus emergency scene

Crossing the street to their bus stop on the morning of Nov. 1 in rural Indiana, 9-year-old Alivia Stahl and her twin 6-year-old brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle, were killed when they were struck by a pickup truck, police said. Another student injured in the incident was airlifted to a hospital, CNN reported. The 24-year-old driver was arrested on three counts of felony reckless homicide and misdemeanor passing a school bus with the arm extended.

A 9-year-old was struck and killed north of Tupelo, Miss., as he crossed the road to board a school bus. In central Pennsylvania, a 7-year-old boy was found dead on the side of the road near his home after he was run over by a slow-moving vehicle. His school bus driver arrived at the stop, discovered the child, called 911 and stayed there until first responders arrived. In Tallahassee, Fla., a 19-year-old man hit and injured a kindergartner crossing the street to board a school bus. The driver realized too late that the school bus arm was extended. In Tampa, Fla., five children and two adults were rushed to a hospital after a car hit pedestrians at a school bus stop. And on Nov. 9, an SUV in south-central Pennsylvania rear-ended a school bus. No children were hurt, but within the past month, a high school student in the same town, Shippensburg, had been hit by a car and injured while crossing to a bus stop

The school bus is not the problem

Riding a traditional yellow school bus remains the safest way for children to get to school.The recent deadly incidents occurred at or near bus stops, not while the victims were onboard a bus. Accidents involving school transportation, including buses, make up a tiny fraction of deadly crashes—less than 1 percent of the nearly 325,000 fatal crashes in the United States from 2006 to 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This fall’s tragedies underscore the need for greater awareness by communities and greater vigilance by motorists, especially in school bus zones. Texting while driving may be even more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, and texting appears to be a factor in at least some of these cases.

In most states, drivers are required to stop and wait for a stopped school bus with flashing lights and a raised stop arm, except where provisions for multilane highways apply. In at least two incidents this month, police said the bus stop arm was raised when drivers struck the children. Unfortunately, AFT members who work as school bus drivers confirm research showing that drivers routinely pass stopped school buses.

 

School bus emergency scene Indiana State Police photo.

Stop for the Bus campaign

AFT members can help fight this tragedy. It’s easy to launch our Stop for the Bus campaign; we have tools to help in planning and enlisting help from local businesses, churches, nonprofits and other groups. Here are a few ways AFT locals have publicized their Stop for the Bus campaigns:

  • Taking out free public service ads in local media.
  • Distributing campaign fliers at community events, such as county fairs.
  • Writing letters to the editor of their local newspapers.
  • Asking local businesses to drop leaflets into customers’ bags when they make a purchase.
  • Asking other community groups if local union leaders can come speak about the campaign.

For more information about Stop for the Bus, email psrp@aft.org or call 202-434-4696.

[Annette Licitra]