This is a letter from Ed Bishop, director of transportation for Prince William County public schools.
School bus transportation is the safest mode of transportation on this planet. A child is 10 times more likely to be injured in the family car, six times more likely to be injured on an airplane and four times more likely to be injured on a train than on a school bus. This outstanding safety record can rightfully be attributed to our competent, dedicated and professional school bus drivers.
But our school bus drivers did not achieve and cannot sustain this outstanding safety record without help from the citizens of Prince William County. Most injuries and fatalities associated with pupil transportation occur when students are boarding or being discharged from buses. Those incidents usually occur when a motorist runs the flashing red lights and extended stop sign on the school bus. On a typical school day, there are more than 3,000 red-light infractions throughout Virginia. In Prince William County, our drivers reported 439 red-light runners during the last school year.
Some accidents occur because motorists are unaware of the traffic laws on school bus safety. Those laws require motorists to stop while school buses are loading or unloading students, unless their vehicle is traveling on the opposite side of a highway divided by a median strip or a barrier. On two- and four-lane roads not separated by a physical barrier, traffic in both directions must stop.
The warning lights on a school bus signal to other motorists what is happening. The amber warning lights at the top of the school bus will flash to warn motorists that the bus will stop in 200 feet or less. Once the bus stops and its door is opened, the red stoplights will flash and the stop sign will extend. This signals to motorists that students are loading or being discharged from the bus and that it is illegal to pass even if the bus is on school property.
In other incidents, drivers become impatient and intentionally run the red lights on a school bus because they are late to work or in a hurry. Can two minutes really be more valuable than the life of a child?
On Tuesday, almost 70,000 Prince William County students will return to school. They will all be excited, and many might react in unpredictable ways. Strict compliance with applicable pupil transportation laws can alleviate part of the danger.
To the thousands of motorists on our county's roads, I ask for your support. Learn and obey school bus traffic laws. Help our dedicated bus drivers ensure the continued safety of our most precious resource -- our children. School bus safety is everybody's business.