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Aaron Jordan: School and bus safety are important

MORRIS, Minn. -- Several years ago when I was working in another county a little boy was run over by a school bus. It was a tragic accident, one that I will never forget. Law enforcement concluded that the little boy had dropped his hat underneath the bus and went to retrieve it. The bus driver was distracted by other children and assumed the young boy had already crossed the road. He had not crossed. He was run over and killed.

Every rule and law that has been put into place regarding school crossings and buses is directly due to some real life tragedy. School will soon be back in session. We can all benefit from some back-to-school safety reminders, whether a student, a parent, a motorist or a pedestrian.

Have a family discussion on the rules for being safe while loading, riding and exiting the school bus, and how to safely walk to school — consider this your "back-to-school homework." Parents, talk to your teen drivers about a motorist's responsibility to pay attention to school bus traffic and the "danger zone" — it will be a good reminder for them, and for you. More children are killed outside of a school bus than are killed as bus occupants. Motorists must anticipate children in a school bus "danger zone" — the area around a bus where most injuries and deaths occur.

Remind the drivers in your household that each is responsible to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. But even so, teach and remind your children on where they should wait for their bus, how to walk around the bus, and how to safely cross busy streets. If both pedestrians and motorists are aware and attentive to their surroundings, we are all much safer!

With the new routine of a school year, our mornings are hectic. While we are focused on readying backpacks, homework, and schedules for our children, we are easily distracted as drivers. We are also often in a hurry! And our kids, who are focused on their friends, their upcoming school day, or their after school plans, are easily distracted while walking to school or waiting at their bus stop.

We want everyone to make it to school safely. Please share these reminders with your family.

Tips for children exiting the bus:

• Even as they exit the bus, children should look both ways to be sure no cars are attempting to pass their bus.

• After exiting the bus, children should take five "giant steps" out from the front of the bus, or until they can see the driver's face; this insures that the driver can see them walking in front of the bus, and allows the driver to signal to them when it is safe to cross.

• Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. And keep watching traffic when crossing.

• Never walk behind the bus.

• Tell the bus driver if you drop something near the bus. A bus driver may not be able to see children attempting to retrieve such items.

Tips for pedestrians:

• Don't count on drivers to pay attention — make eye contact with motorists. Be alert and check for vehicles even when walking in a crosswalk.

• Be predictable — cross or enter streets where it's legal to do so, at designated crossings and/or at street corners.

• Use sidewalks. Where no sidewalks are provided, it is usually safer to walk facing traffic.

• Make it easy for drivers to see you — dress in light colors and wear reflective material. Carry a flashlight if it's dark.

• Use extra caution when crossing multiple-lane, higher speed streets.

Tips for motorists:

• Whether following or approaching a bus, stop at least 20 feet from the bus if it is displaying red flashing lights and/or an extended stop arm.

• Red flashing lights on buses indicate students entering or exiting the bus.

• Yellow flashing lights indicate a bus is preparing to stop. Slow down and prepare to stop and watch for children.

• Alter your route or schedule to avoid heavily traveled bus routes.

• Watch for school crossing patrols and pedestrians. Reduce speeds in and around school zones.

• Watch and stop for pedestrians-especially around schools and colleges. It's the law to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, even if it's not marked. Stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see the pedestrian. Consider every corner as a crosswalk.

• Pay attention. Texting and driving is illegal. Turn off your phone. Limit distractions and focus on your driving and surroundings.

Anyone who is uncertain about a law or regulation relating to bus traffic in our area may contact the Stevens County Attorneys Office at 320-208-6590. Stay safe and have a great school year!

Aaron Jordan is the Stevens County Attorney. Jordan blogs at