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Keep students safe this school year

Children living on Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and in the surrounding area begin the 2015 – 2016 school year this week, August 3-7, meaning there will be an increase in school buses on the roads and children walking on the sidewalks. Motorists are encouraged to know the Colorado school bus laws and use caution when near school buses, children at school bus stops and while driving in school zones. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Children living on Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and in the surrounding area begin the 2015 – 2016 school year this week, August 3-7, meaning there will be an increase in school buses on the roads and children walking on the sidewalks. Motorists are encouraged to know the Colorado school bus laws and use caution when near school buses, children at school bus stops and while driving in school zones. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As teachers finish their lesson plans and students prepare for their first day of school, which for many is this week, drivers in Colorado Springs and on Schriever Air Force Base should prepare to see more school buses on the road and students walking on the sidewalks.

"With school starting, [drivers] need to be aware the kids are excited and aren't always paying attention, so it is up to us to be attentive," said Teresa Burke, Ellicott School District transportation director.

Most Colorado schools will be back in session this week to include Falcon Schools (District 49), which start class on Aug. 4, and Ellicott Schools (District 22) which start Aug. 5.

"We care about our kids, and we care about their safety, so please watch out for them," said Burke.

According to Drive Smart Colorado, a nationally recognized community traffic safety program, each day school buses around the country transport approximately 20 million students to and from school and school related events.

The American School Bus Council says, "School buses are the safest mode of transportation for transporting kids to and from school."

This doesn't mean we shouldn't stay vigilant for buses and students or stay knowledgeable about Colorado laws regarding buses and school zones.

"It is important that motorists understand what the rules are," said Tech. Sgt. Alejandro Torres, 50th Space Wing ground safety manager. "If you see a bus stopped everyone should know you should stop."

The Colorado driver's handbook states, "You must stop your vehicle at least 20 feet before reaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the opposite side of the road, or at an intersection you are approaching."

Failing to stop for a school bus that is actively picking up or dropping off students and has its stop sign displayed can result in penalties for the driver and can be disastrous for students.

"If a driver should fail to stop, they can get up to four points on their license and a fine," said Burke. "Keep in mind that the bus drivers are permitted to write down license plates and descriptions of vehicles and send them to local police who can issue citations."

Torres added that some school buses have cameras, and recordings from those cameras can be used as evidence in court.

Drivers aren't the only ones who should keep school bus safety in mind -- students also need safety information to ensure they are protected.

According to Burke, students who attend Ellicott School District and ride the bus are given an initial safety brief by their bus driver and participate in three school bus evacuation drills each school year.

The Schriever Air Force Base Safety Office also recommends parents take an active role in helping children plan their route to and from the bus stop and talk to their children about bus safety.

"As a parent, know what their route is; go with them so you can see what they are doing and where they are crossing and then you can provide safety tips," said Torres.
Schriever's Safety Office works closely with Drive Smart Colorado to increase traffic safety on and surrounding the base.

According to the Drive Smart Colorado website, www.drivesmartcolorado.com, "Two-thirds of school bus-related fatalities happen outside of the bus." For this reason, the organization provides the following school bus safety tips.

For Students:
-- Be at the bus stop at least five minutes early.
-- When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps away from the edge of the road.
-- Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it's OK before stepping onto or off of the bus.
-- Be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps do not get caught in the handrail or door.
-- Never walk behind the bus.
--Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus any time you are walking beside a bus.
-- If you drop something near or under the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up.

For Motorists:
-- Watch for children traveling to and from school. They can be unpredictable in their actions and it is your responsibility to anticipate what they may do.
-- Drive slowly. Pay attention to the posted speed limits.
-- Watch for children gathering at bus stops.
-- Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street.
-- Know the school bus laws for your state.
-- You must stop at least 20 feet from a stopped bus with lights flashing.

To learn more about school bus safety, contact the Safety Office at 567-7233 or visit the Drive Smart Colorado website at www.drivesmartcolorado.com.
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