JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – In support of National School Bus Safety Week, which runs from October 17-21, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) shared information from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind drivers about the importance of school bus safety.

“This week has been set aside as National School Bus Safety Week with an emphasis focused this week to safety coordination as it relates to motorists on the road, their awareness with school buses throughout our state and on our roadways. It’s to make sure they are obeying all traffic signals and in addition to those signals that are reaching out from the bus,” stated Brian McGairty, director of Safe and Orderly Schools.

In every state, it is illegal to pass a school bus while the school bus stop arm is extended, and the red lights are flashing. Although the school bus is one of the safest modes of transportation, illegal school bus passing is a deadly risk to bus riders and their caretakers. Drivers should always come to a complete stop when a school bus stop arm is extended, and the red lights are flashing.

“Exercise the most safely you can when you do see a yellow approaching bus, whether you are behind it or whether it’s coming toward you. Go ahead and take a few extra moments to slow down and give that bus the space that it needs whether it’s to load or unload, or just driving down the street. That is not just a piece of equipment with four wheels going down the road. It is carrying numerous souls onboard just like precautions we take each day to get on an aircraft or anything else,” explained McGairty.

The school bus loading and unloading area is called the “Danger Zones.” Specifically, this is any side of the bus where a child may not be seen by the bus driver and, therefore, is in the most danger. These areas include:

  • 10 feet in front of the bus, where the driver may be sitting too high to see a child
  • 10 feet on either side of the bus, where a child may be in the driver’s blind spots
  • Behind the school bus

Nathan’s Law can carry up to 20 years in prison for any child that is killed as a result of a motorist accident or neglect in terms of striking the child in creating bodily harm or death.