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Back to School Special: All About Bus Safety

We answer all your bus-related questions including, whether you have to stop for a school bus (yes), if there is ever a good reason to walk behind a bus, and why do school buses have no seat belts (it's complicated).

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School is back in session and roads in Burnsville will see an influx of mammoth, yellow vehicles—the iconic American school bus. According to the Minnesota Department of Safety, Minnesota school buses make 10,000 trips each day. They are one of the safest forms of transportation available. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that children are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicles. There's one catch: Kids are safe inside the bus, but enter the "Danger Zone" the moment they leave—mostly due to careless motorists. Most injuries and deaths occur in the area around the bus. 

Stay safe. Here are some tips and tricks to remember as the school year gets under way, courtesy of both the state of Minnesota and the Burnsville Police Department:

Safety Tips for Motorists

Motorists must stop completely when a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended, when approaching the bus from behind or from the opposite direction on undivided roads. Motorists must be at least 20 feet from the bus. Drivers must remain stopped until the stop arm is retracted and the lights are no longer flashing. There are criminal penalties for those who do not follow the rules: By Minnesota law, drivers can be fined no less than $300. Furthermore, if police have probable cause, they can arrest you up to four hours after the fact for the offense.

There is one exception to the aforementioned rule: Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a roadway separated by a physical barrier, ie a median, but they should still be on the lookout for children.

When the red lights are flashing that means students are either entering or exiting the bus.

• Yellow flashing lights mean that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and get ready to stop.

• Be vigilant. Watch and stop for school crossing patrols and pedestrians. The law applies to all street corners, for both marked and unmarked crosswalks. According to Minnesota statutue, every corner is a crosswalk.   

Safety Tips for Children

Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. 

When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder (look left, look right, look left).

Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” (10 feet) out from the front of the bus, until you and the driver can see each other clearly.

Wait for the driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.

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

Why Don't School Buses Have Seat Belts?

School buses are larger and heavier, than most vehicles. Their mass and weight are designed to take the bulk of a crash. They unlikely to rollover in an accident. As per federal regulations, the interior of the bus is built to protect the kids inside without seat belts—as a carton protects the eggs inside—with strong, closely spaced seats, energy-absorbing foam seat backs, and high, 24-inch seats. The frame of the bus (or chassis) is also designed to separate from the bus body, a special feature which is intended to "slow down and spread" the crash impact over the entire body of the hulking vehicle. 

Additional Information

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District has contracted its busing operations to Durham School Services. For late buses, buses that don't show up at bus stops, and items left on buses call Durham. The correct number is: 952-736-8004. For questions about bus routes and changes to student information parents should call the District 191 transportation office at 952-707-2069 or 952-707-2067. 

For more district-specific information, click here for ISD 191's Transportation Guide.

s hebel September 05, 2012 at 11:34 AM
First day of school was crazy for the students. Bus drivers not showing up to drive a bus to telling kids to shut up on the bus. Yes a driver for bus 28 did tell kids to shut up when he didn't know were the school was location but the students try to tell him. By not listening to the students ended up in Apple Valley not at school in Burnsville.
Joshua September 05, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I hope that you reported the driver.

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