Northwest Allen County Schools Transportation Center, along with the help of elementary school administrators, introduced a district-wide coloring contest last week among students in kindergarten through 5th grade. The goal was to drive home bus safety messages with students for National School Bus Safety Week, which runs from Oct. 18 to Oct. 22.

Isabella Frick, a 5th grader in Lindsey Noll’s class at Perry Hill Elementary School, won the contest for her school and the district-wide contest.

“I really like doing art,” Frick said. “I have a lot of art supplies at my house. I just wanted to do it for fun. I didn’t think I’d actually win it.”

Frick said she and her friend entered the contest together. She said she wanted to add her own details to the picture.

“For the girl sitting next to the bus driver, I added some freckles with a pen,” she said. “It was a worn out pen so it didn’t add much marking.”

Frick said she was “really excited” when she was announced the winner.

“I didn’t know that I would win the district,” she said. “I thought I just won for my class or something.”

She said she might use the art supplies she won to color some more of the contest pictures.

Frick used illustration markers, an alcohol-based marker with dual sides, for her winning picture.

“I got them like two days before and I hadn’t colored many things with it,” she said. “They’re the only markers I have and I decided to use those because they work really well and they’re brand new.”

Each day last week, a theme of the day was shared during morning announcements at the elementary schools to emphasize different bus safety messages. The awareness week encourages school communities to review bus safety practices among parents, students, teachers, school administrators, motorists and school bus operators.

The following topics were discussed during National School Bus Safety Week:

Oct. 19 — Seat belts: If a crash happens, seat belts will reduce injuries to children who are correctly seated in school buses. Seat belts also improve passenger behavior and reduce driver distractions. Seat belts protect us against injuries in rollover or side crashes. Remember just like in your car: If your bus has seat belts, you should always wear it on the bus. If your bus doesn’t have seat belts, you should always stat seated no matter what.

Oct. 20 — Hand signals: Getting on and off a school bus is one of the most dangerous times for a student. The whole idea is to get across the street as safely as possible. Always wait for the driver to give a “thumbs up” or “hand wave” so you know when it is safe to cross the street or cross in front of the bus. Students should always walk in front of the bus, never walk behind the bus. Students should also always stop at the edge of the bus, look left-right-left before crossing and wait for the driver’s hand signal before crossing.

Oct. 21 — Danger zones: The most dangerous part of the school bus ride is getting on and off. The four sides all around the school bus are called danger zones. These areas are very dangerous because it’s almost impossible for the driver to see anything inside these zones. The danger zones are: 10 feet in front of the bus where the driver can’t see in front of the hood; 10 feet on both sides of the bus where the driver may not see you; the entire area behind the school bus. Students riding a school bus should always arrive at the bus stop five minutes early just in case the driver arrives early, stand at least five giant steps (10 feet) away from the edge of the road; wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s okay before stepping toward the bus; be careful that clothing with drawstrings, book bag straps or dangling objects don’t get caught in the handrail or door when exiting the bus; walk on the sidewalk if you have one and if you don’t, walk along the side of the road at leave five giant steps (10 feet) away from the bus; be sure the driver can see you and you can see the driver; and tell the bus driver if you drop something beside the bus.

Oct. 22 — Respect: Always keep your hands and feet to yourself on the bus. We all know it’s not kind to touch other people, but did you know that play fighting and horseplaying on a bus is a very big distraction to the driver? They always need to watch the road to keep you safe. So always stay seated, stay buckled, talk quietly and keep your hands and feet to yourself.

NACS transports students more than one million miles during a typical school year. Transportation had fewer bus riders last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 mileage was in the 800,000 mile range.

Although NACS, along with three other Allen County Public School districts, joined forces with area law enforcement two years ago to reduce stop-arm violations in Allen County, this safety hazard is still prevalent. Parkview Health Trauma Services assisted with financial support of the awareness campaign which took a backseat once COVID-19 surfaced.

“I can tell you that stop-arm violations still happen here everyday,” Hoffman said. “Our drivers have only reported 12 stop-arm violations this year, however, they are only reported if the driver secures a plate number. Otherwise, records aren’t kept. We encourage the community to slow down and stop when you see a bus nearby.”

The most recent national bus stop-arm violation survey day was in April of 2019. The pandemic prevented schools from participating in the national survey in 2020 and 2021.

The 2019 survey resulted in the following:

INDIANA:

  • 6,800 bus drivers participated statewide
  • 2,700 stop-arm violations were reported in one day
  • 104 of those passed the bus on the right, the door-side of the bus

NATIONWIDE:

  • 39 states participated
  • 131,345 drivers participated
  • 95,494 stop-arm violations in one day
  • 1,997 stop-arm violators passed the bus on the right, the door-side of the bus

Other safety tips:

  • Students are 70 times safer traveling on a bus than in a car
  • Only 126 occupants were killed in school transportation vehicles between 2010 and 2019. Of those fatalities, 58 were drivers and 68 were passengers.

The National School Bus Safety Week program is hosted by National Association for Pupil Transportation, National School Transportation Association and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

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