As the 2019-2020 school year gets underway, the Garrett County Traffic and Transportation Advisory Committee reminds everyone that motorists will be sharing the road with the big yellow buses. The first day of school for Garrett County students is on Monday, August 26th.
Motorists should pay close attention on roadways and designated school zones, especially in the mornings and afternoons when schools open and close. Maryland law requires all vehicles to come to a complete stop for stopped buses with activated red lights on both sides of the road if there is no physical divider or barrier.
In other words, if the bus is stopped with its red lights flashing motorists meeting or overtaking the bus are required to stop at least 20 feet from the bus in either direction. The only exception is when there is a physical barrier dividing a four-lane roadway, then only vehicles following the bus are required to stop.
According to the National Research Council, school buses are nearly eight times safer than passenger vehicles. Of the more than 800 students killed in the US each year going to and from school, only an average of seven students are killed in bus crashes.
The Maryland Highway Safety office reports that “the greatest risk is not when riding in the bus, but approaching or leaving the bus. While an average of seven school-age passengers are killed in school bus crashes each year, 19 are killed getting on and off the bus. Most of those killed are children, five to seven years old. They are hit in the Danger Zone (the 10 foot area) around the bus, either by a passing vehicle or by the school bus itself. It’s illegal for a vehicle to pass a bus with its red lights flashing.”
In an effort to keep school children safe, the Maryland State Police, Garrett County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland Natural Resources Police, and Oakland Police Department will each have additional patrols out to enforce traffic laws near schools and around school buses.