August has arrived and with it, the 2023-2024 school year.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol is encouraging parents to include conversations about safety with students in their back-to-school preparations. The agency also reminds drivers to be prepared for the change in traffic patterns as students begin another year of instruction.
In 2022, the patrol reported, two people were killed and 361 were hurt in traffic crashes involving a school bus. In Missouri last year, a total of 884 traffic crashes involved school buses.
Troopers hope everyone will review the safety tips that follow.
Always be vigilant, but especially near school zones, playgrounds, bicycle paths and crosswalks when schools are in session. Expect pedestrian and bicycle traffic to increase near schools on days the weather is good.
When schools are in session, drivers should expect a change in traffic patterns ─ school buses, parents taking their children to school and many young drivers will join other motorists on the road, affecting the morning and afternoon commute. No matter the route, expect the additional traffic and prepare by allowing extra time to reach a destination, the patrol urges.
Missouri law states that on a two-lane road, if a school bus is stopped and displaying warning signals while loading or unloading children, drivers must stop when meeting and following the bus. However, it is only necessary to stop on a four-lane highway when following the bus. Drivers, who see a stopped school bus are reminded to stay alert and follow the law. Children may not be aware of traffic and dart unexpectedly into the road.
Students walking to school should stay alert, stresses the patrol.
Cross the street at intersections or marked crosswalks and never between parked cars. Use sidewalks when they are available. If it is necessary to walk on the road, stay close to the left edge and step off to the left when traffic approaches. The patrol reminds young walkers never dash into the street after a friend or to retrieve something.
Riding a bicycle to school can be a fun way to travel. Bike riders should be sure to wear a helmet and obey all traffic signs and signals. Ride as near to the right side of the road as is safe and use the proper hand signals when changing directions, slowing or stopping. Never carry passengers, the patrol cautions, and keep both hands on the handlebars except when signaling.
It’s important to maintain bicycles in good condition, the patrol adds.
Bus riders should check the weather and dress accordingly. Wait in line for the bus on the shoulder or sidewalk. Use the handrail when getting on or off the bus. Never try to retrieve items that fall under the bus and walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus when crossing the street. Sit quietly on the bus and keep the aisle clear.
If anything goes wrong, the patrol reminds riders to stay calm and follow the instructions of the bus driver.
Most traffic crashes involving young drivers — younger than 21 — occur between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., when school typically lets out. Many of these drivers are young and inexperienced. Parents: It is important to encourage those young drivers to remember driving is a full-time job, says the patrol. Using a cell phone, texting or adjusting the radio can be the distraction that leads to a traffic crash. It's also against the law for this age group.
Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about riding a bus, walking or driving to school in a safe manner. If they ride a bike, they should make sure youths wear their helmets and follow traffic laws.
Parents are also encouraged talk to their children about the Courage2ReportMO program, which provides a safe and confidential way to report any concerns regarding their safety or the safety of others. These concerns may include assault, bullying or repeated harassment, cyber bullying, fighting, guns, homicide, human trafficking, knife, a planned school attack, imminent school shooting or threat, sexual offense, concerns another person may be suicidal, or a terrorism threat (extremism).
Those reporting their concerns may remain anonymous. C2R provides a “sooner is safer” tool to report real time concerns 24 hours a day. There are several ways concerned persons may submit a C2R report:
- through an Apple or Google Play Courage2Report mobile app,
- by making an online report via www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/Courage2ReportMO/index.html,
- by speaking confidentially to a trained professional at 866-748-7047, or
- by texting "C2R" to 738477.
C2R Missouri calls and tips (web, text and mobile app) are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by trained communications professionals. C2R Missouri requests a disposition report be returned on each tip report, notifying the Missouri State Highway Patrol of the outcome. For more information about C2R Missouri awareness and education resources, call the C2R Missouri Administrative Office at 866-362-6422.
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