Baltimore, MD – October 21, 2019 – To help ensure our children stay safe when getting on and off the bus, the Maryland Center for School Safety, Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland State Police, Maryland Department of Transportation, and local school systems are all teaming up for National School Bus Safety Week, October 21-25, 2019. This public education campaign focuses on the importance of school bus safety, especially when it comes to other drivers on the road.
More drivers in Maryland are obeying the law and stopping for school bus arms than in previous years, according to the latest survey of state bus drivers conducted by MSDE. However, officials are working together to continue to spread the school bus safety message far and wide across the state for all drivers.
“More than 641,000 of our students ride school buses in Maryland,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “As community members, we must work together to ensure our children are safe getting to and from school. I encourage our residents and visitors to our state to pay attention when driving, especially in school zones and school bus stops, and to stop when the bus stops.”
Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a school bus instead of traveling by car, according to the American School Bus Council. To recognize this and focus public awareness on student transportation, this year’s National School Bus Safety theme is My School Bus, The Safest Form of Student Transportation!
It is illegal to pass a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended when it has stopped to load or unload students. In Maryland the law states that if a school vehicle has stopped on a road and is operating the alternately flashing red lights, the driver of any vehicle following or approaching the school bus must stop at least 20 feet from the front or rear of the school vehicle. Failure to stop for the bus can result in up to a $500 fine, three points on a driver’s license, and increased insurance rates.
A total of 3,194 violations of school bus stop arms were recorded by bus drivers across Maryland on a single day last spring in a statewide survey conducted by MSDE, compared to 3,812 observed violations in 2018 and 3,384 in 2017.
Last year’s drop followed several years of increased reported violations, and show a significant decrease from the 7,011 recorded violations when the survey began in 2011.
“One violation of the stop arm is one too many, because it puts children at risk of harm,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “Each driver in Maryland has to do their part to maintain safe driving practices for the sake of our students.”
MSDE coordinated the survey in April in collaboration with school transportation directors in all 24 school systems as a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. More than 80% of Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services coordinates surveys of this type in all 50 states.
The Maryland Center for School Safety is doing its part to make sure drivers are aware of the law and the importance of school bus safety.
“We are requesting the help of our partners and the entire community in reminding all drivers about school bus stop arm safety,” said Maryland Center for School Safety Executive Director Kate Hession. “We have placed messaging in all of the Motor Vehicle Administration service centers throughout the state and launched a new school bus safety public service announcement on social media, television, and digital billboards to remind drivers to STOP for any school bus with its flashing lights on and stop arm extended.”
For more information on National School Bus Safety Week, visit www.napt.org/nsbsw. You can also follow the Maryland Center for School Safety on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all week to share their information and tips at hashtag #NSBSW.