This week the Virginia State Police and Youth of Virginia Speak Out are reminding all Virginians of the necessity of keeping our young drivers and passengers safe on the highways of the Commonwealth. Monday, Oct. 19, signals the start of two very important traffic safety weeks aimed at protecting teen drivers and those students who ride school buses.
2015 National School Bus Safety Week
State police joins Governor Terry McAuliffe in recognizing National School Bus Safety Week, which beginsOct. 19, 2015, and continues through Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. Tuesday, Oct. 20, is designated as School Bus Transportation Employees Appreciation Day and state police applauds all school bus drivers across the Commonwealth who every day safely and responsibly transport Virginia’s youth to and from school, events, field trips, etc.
According to Governor McAuliffe’s proclamation, the average school bus transports 54 students, which replaces approximately 36 family vehicles; thus increasing the convenience and efficiency of student transportation across the Commonwealth.
In 2014 in Virginia, five individuals were injured either getting on or off a school bus. Fortunately, last year there were no deaths of school bus occupants or drivers in Virginia.* It is essential for the safety of children and drivers that all vehicles stop when a school bus’s red lights are flashing and the stop bar is activated. In accordance with state law, all drivers must stop and allow children to get on or off the bus. Additional school bus safety tips are as follows*:
- School buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road. Most school bus incidents happen off the bus, not on the bus.
- If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
- When the bus approaches, stand at least five giant steps (10 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
- School buses don’t have seat belts in them because they have a built-in occupant protection system known as “compartmentalization,” which is a system of seat height, seat length and padding, among other requirements. Compartmentalization is like an egg carton protecting a child.
2015 National Teen Driver Safety Week
National Teen Driver Safety Week also begins Monday, Oct. 19, and continues through the entire week. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 14 to 18 year olds in the US. In fact, in 2013, there were 2,614 teen (15-19 year old) passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 130,000 were injured.
Yet, a recent survey shows that only 25 percent of parents have had a serious talk with their kids about the key components of driving. Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about the many dangers of driving. Those dangers include alcohol, seat belts, texting, speeding, and extra passengers.
Even if you think they don’t hear you, they do. Remember, the “5 to Drive” – Set the Rules Before They Hit the Road:
- No Drinking and Driving.
Set a good example by not driving after drinking. Remind your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is illegal, and alcohol and driving should never mix no matter your age.
- Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back.
Lead by example. If you wear your seat belt every time you’re in the car, your teen is more likely to follow suit. Remind your teen that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, no matter how far or how fast.
- Put It Down. One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.
Remind your teen about the dangers of texting or dialing while driving, and that the phone is off-limits when they are on the road. It’s equally important to model safe driving habits for your teen—you shouldn’t text and drive either.
- Stop Speeding Before It Stops You.
Drive the speed limit and require your teen to do the same. Explain that every time your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples.
- No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.
With each passenger in the vehicle, your teen’s risk of a fatal crash goes up. Don’t load your car with too many friends. Focus on your driving, and resist distractions and peer pressure.
For more information on teen driving safety, please go to the YOVASO Website at www.yovaso.org. YOVASO is Virginia’s Peer-to-Peer Education and Prevention Program for Teen Driver Safety. It is sponsored by the Virginia State Police and funded by a grant from the Virginia Highway Safety Office. Membership is free and is open to all Virginia high schools and middle schools. YOVASO currently has 142 member schools.