Reporting Colin Smith
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In our culture of distracted driving, school buses have become increasingly vulnerable.
In 2012, 553 school buses were involved in accidents, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. While no children lost their lives, seven drivers of other vehicles were killed.
At least 210 injuries were recorded, 65 of them children.
“Considering how distracted drivers can be, we’ve been fortunate not to have a tragedy (involving a child’s death),” said Lt. Eric Reu, pupil transportation director with DPS. “We do everything we can to get the information out there but, unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time.”
In March, the DPS conducted a survey of more than 3,000 bus drivers throughout the state, and found 1 in 6 reported they had been illegally passed.
Even with lights flashing and stop arm extended, cars went right around them.
“Some of those drivers are, no doubt, impatient and don’t want to wait,” Reu said. “Others don’t even know they did anything wrong. When law enforcement catches up with them, they’ll often (tell officers) they never even saw the bus.”
DPS reminds drivers that they must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus with red flashing lights and its stop arm extended. If drivers are in a hurry, altering a route to schedule to avoid a bus is another recommendation to improve safety.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicles.
In Minnesota, school buses take 10,000 trips daily.