SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are reminding students, parents and drivers about the importance of school bus safety both on and off the school bus during National School Bus Safety Week. The theme for the week, “Be Aware, Cross with Care,” reminds Illinois’ school children to be mindful of hazards any time they must cross the street and are walking to and from the bus stop.
“Many of our more than 2 million students either ride the school bus to and from school or to an extra-curricular activity. While school buses are the safest way for students to be transported, accidents do occur,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “Many accidents involving school buses occur as a result of motorists who attempt to pass a stopped school bus with flashing red warning lights while students load or unload. By observing National School Bus Safety Week, we are drawing attention to the importance of bus safety in Illinois.”
School Bus Safety Week was established in 1966 and is celebrated the third full week of October each year. The goal is to educate students, parents and the motoring public about the safety of our nation’s children who are transported daily on yellow school buses.
"The number one priority for the Illinois Department of Transportation is the safety of all those who use our roadways, and this is especially true when it comes to the safety of everyone who rides a school bus" said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. "IDOT's Division of Traffic Safety has a rigorous school bus safety inspection program and we work closely with school systems across the state to ensure that our school buses meet the safety standards all of us expect. At the same time, drivers have an obligation to make sure they follow the law when they see a school bus on the road."
The American Public Transit Association reports that approximately 400,000 yellow school buses serve American elementary and high school students. In Illinois alone, there are roughly 29,000 schools buses operating. In all, about 22.5 million school-age children ride yellow school buses to and from school nationwide.
There are several new school bus transportation laws that impact both motorists and school bus drivers:
• Public Act 95-0105, effective January 1, 2008, states that if the owner of a vehicle that illegally passes a school bus stopped to load or unload students contends that another person was driving the vehicle, the State’s Attorney acting in response to a signed complaint may require the owner to identify the driver in a written statement or deposition. Failure of the vehicle owner to identify the driver shall result in a three month suspension of the owner’s vehicle registration.
• Public Act 95-0176, effective January 1, 2008, requires each school bus operated in Illinois to display a telephone number on the rear of the bus to be used to report erratic driving. Requires school districts and contractors to have a policy in place to investigate reports of erratic driving and to report what action was taken to the complainant.
• Public Act 95-0260, effective August 17, 2007, requires each school district and contractor in Illinois to have a policy in place by January 1, 2008, that requires the driver to shut off the ignition, activate the interior lights and walk to the rear of the bus to check for children still on board. If an electronic device is used, that device must activate the interior lights when the ignition is shut off.
• Public Act 95-0319, effective August 21, 2007, allows the strobe light on a school bus to be illuminated at any time a bus is being used as a school bus and is bearing one or more pupils.
• Public Act 95-0352, effective August 23, 2007, will allow both a visual and audio recording to be made on the interior of a school bus when transportation is provided for any school related activity. Notice of such recordings will have to be provided to parents, students, be clearly posted on the entrance door and inside the school bus. Recordings must be held confidential and can only be used by school officials and law enforcement personnel for disciplinary actions or prosecutions related to incidents occurring in or around the school bus.
For more information about school bus safety, visit ISBE’s school bus safety section online at http://www.isbe.net/funding/html/bus_safety.htm.