COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — State officials are reminding drivers to slow down and be alert when they see school buses on South Carolina roads.
Wednesday morning, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) and the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) held a joint news conference to highlight the importance of school bus safety.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding a school bus is the safest way for students to get to school – 70 times safer compared to other modes of transportation. Unfortunately, each year nationwide injuries and fatalities occur outside of or near a school bus because a vehicle driver failed to obey the stop-arm warning or failed to follow local traffic laws.
“We all play a role in ensuring students in South Carolina and around the nation remain safe during their travel to and from school,” said SCDE Director of Transportation, Mike Bullman. “During National School Bus Safety Week, we want to draw awareness, ensure everyone is knowledgeable about the rules and guidelines around school buses, and highlight the many ways our agency is playing an active role in addressing this issue.”
In addition to leading safety training for bus drivers and helping to draw attention to school bus safety, the SCDE has implemented several actions to ensure school buses are safe for students.
Officials said they have cut the average age of school buses by half, installed GPS hardware and software in all buses and added more than 4,600 new buses to the South Carolina fleet.
SCDPS is encouraging parents and teachers to talk with their children about the importance of safety before and after school starts. Less than 1% of all traffic fatalities involve children on school transportation vehicles. However, children are more at risk when approaching or leaving a school bus.
“We are pleased to be here again at the SC State Fair with our longstanding partner, the South Carolina Department of Education, to speak to the community and urge everyone to keep school bus safety a priority,” said Colonel Christopher N. Williamson, Commander of the SC Highway Patrol. “While there continues to be significant improvements in school bus technology, training, and education, we still see people in our state choosing to deliberately break the laws intended to keep children safe. So today we are reminding the community – school bus safety is a team effort, and that we all have a role to play in keeping our most precious cargo safe.”
Under state law, if you fail to stop while a school bus is loading or unloading, you could face a $1062.50 fine and six points against your license. Officials say bus drivers reported more than 3700 stop arm violations last school year statewide.