Smile: That School Bus May Be Watching You

School districts on Delmarva that did not start the new school year before Labor Day are doing so this week.

That means more school buses are rolling out each weekday.

At least one school district is providing an additional layer of safety and security for students who take the bus. The Sussex Tech Board of Education approved the purchase of a new mobile camera system for each school bus.

The Angel Trax system includes one camera for the interior of the bus and one for the exterior, which is located near the stop-sign arm of the bus. The system uses passive monitoring and passive GPS and is capable of pinpointing incidents and capturing vehicle statistics including speed, brakes, indicator status and stop-arm deployment.

Sussex Tech operates 33 buses utilizing 13 different contractors

The agreement for the camera system includes funds for an annual maintenance contract.

AAA Mid-Atlantic also urges Delmarva drivers and students to do their parts to get the school year off to a safe start.

“This time of year is particularly dangerous. Young, inexperienced drivers heading to high school, school buses, commuters, parents doing drop-offs, and pedestrians and bicyclists are all sharing the road,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Jana Tidwell said. “While traffic patterns may change, the responsibility for keeping students safe does not. It’s important that all drivers, as well as students, remain alert and follow basic precautions for a safe return back to school.”

Additional safety tips were provided by AAA:

Delaware’s School Bus Stopping Law

When a school bus is stopped and displays flashing lamps (amber warning lamps and/or red stop lamps), the driver of any vehicle approaching the school bus from the front or from the rear shall stop before passing the bus and remain stopped until such bus begins to move or no longer has the red stop lamps activated. When a bus is stopped on a two-lane road with the overhead red flashing lights illuminated and stop arm out, the driver of any vehicle approaching the school bus from the front or the rear of the bus shall stop and remain stopped until the red lights are no longer flashing and the stop arm is retracted. – On a roadway with four or more lanes, the driver approaching the bus from the front shall not stop. – Drivers should stop far enough from the bus to allow students to safely enter and exit the bus.

AAA offers the following tips as the new school year gets under way:

AAA Drop-Off/Pick-Up Safety Tips

  • Follow school drop-off and pick-up procedures, and be mindful that these may have changed.
  • Don’t double park. It blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.
  • Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.
  • Have children exit the vehicle on the “curb side” every time (so they aren’t opening the car door into an oncoming traffic lane or crossing around the front/back of car to get to curb)
  • Slow down, eliminate distractions, and watch for children.

AAA Driving Tips

  • Always Stop for School Buses. Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on and off. Drivers are required to stop their vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again. It’s the law and can result in a hefty fine if you don’t.
  • Keep Track of Time. Be aware of the time of day you’re on the road and how that coincides with the school day. More school-age pedestrians are killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
  • Slow Down. Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, drivers should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
  • Come to a complete stop. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
  • Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone while driving.
  • Obey Traffic Signs and Signals. Unfortunately, many motorists violate stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods, with many failing to come to a complete stop, rolling through a stop sign or not slowing down at all. Motorists are also running red stoplights, putting pedestrians and other motorists at risk.

AAA Pedestrian Safety Tips

  • Cross only at corners so drivers can see you. Never cross between parked cars or mid-block.
  • Use a crosswalk when it’s available. Don’t assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you. Always use caution when crossing.
  • Look all ways before crossing. Look and listen for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Use the crosswalk push-button signal when possible, and cross when the signal allows.
  • Once you have confirmed traffic has stopped, cross when the light indicates it is safe to cross without further hesitation so you have time to cross safely.
  • Watch for cars that are turning left or right when you are crossing.
  • Walk on a sidewalk when it is provided. If you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic, on the left side of the road and as far to the left as possible.
  • Make it easy for drivers to see you. Dress in light colors, wear reflective material or use a flashlight.
  • Remove headphones and don’t use cell phones or electronic devices when crossing the street.
  • Watch for white lights on the rear of vehicles in driveways or parking lots, signaling a vehicle is backing up.
  • Avoid walking alone. Walk with a friend.

AAA Bicycle Safety Tips

  • Make sure your child has the skills to ride a bike safely, such as riding in a straight line and signaling to vehicles when turning.
  • Choose the safest route to bike to school, one with less traffic and slower speeds. Use sidewalks unless prohibited by local laws or bike paths if they are available.
  • Make sure your cyclists understand traffic safety rules, such as riding in the same direction as traffic and stopping at all stop signs and signals.
  • Explain the importance of wearing a bike helmet to your child. They’re critical to minimizing injury in case of a crash. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, wearing a helmet can reduce the odds of head injury by half.
  • Ride focused and alert. Never use earbuds or electronics while riding.
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