In Mississippi, 5400 school buses transport more than 450,000 students every day. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports that school leaders are marking National School Bus Safety week by teaching students and the community how to be safe in and around school buses.
Children get on buses at Pineville Elementary School in Harrison County. Principal Jackie Graves says they’ve been learning school bus safety lessons all week.
"Children have been taught the dangers of getting too close to the bus," she says. "The importance of sitting down on the bus, not distracting the driver, the bus safety rules, loading and unloading."
The death of a Mississippi kindergartner named Nathan Key in 2009 by a car illegally passing a stopped school bus resulted in a new, more stringent school bus safety law, named in his memory. Nathan's Law includes fines of up to $750 for passing a stopped school bus.
Here’s what Graves wants to tell motorists:
"Drivers, please do not go around a school bus. Once you see those flashing lights, please remain behind the bus, because you never know when a child is crossing the street," she says.
Just this week, a Pascagoula student was hit by a car at a bus stop; the student was not seriously hurt.
In the 2011 school year, Mississippi had 79 bus accidents that resulted in injuries to students. Most were minor, but there was one fatality that year. Ben Burnett is superintendent of the Lamar County School District and chair of the state’s school bus safety task force. His reminder to drivers:
"No schedule during the day of getting to work on time or early is worth passing a stopped school bus and risking the life of one of our half a million public school students who ride a school bus to and from school every day," he says.
The task force is working on a number of efforts to help increase safety, including a school bus safety curriculum for kindergarten through third grade students.