To the editor:
As Illinois schoolchildren return to school after their holiday break, I want to remind drivers to be on high alert for children making their way to and from school.
Sadly, last year saw at least eight kids across the U.S. killed by motorists who failed to stop for school buses loading or unloading passengers.
Five of those kids were killed over two days in November, including a 9-year-old Rochester, Indiana, girl and her 6-year-old twin brothers.
It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus whose red stop lights are flashing. A one-day survey of 38 states by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services recorded 84,000 incidents of motor vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses. That was in a single day.
My office has kept a close eye on these studies. As part of our Toby Tire School Bus Safety program, we emphasize to children the dangers of crossing the street. Our efforts have produced positive results. We are a national leader in school bus safety.
School bus safety has been a priority of school administrators, teachers and parents, as well as my office during the 20 years I have served as Secretary of State. We warn children to always look both ways while crossing the street, not only while crossing in a school bus loading zone.
School bus safety is a responsibility to be shared by everyone in the community, not just parents and school officials. We are all stakeholders in the safety of our communities’ children.
I encourage those with school-aged children to take time to remind them of the fundamentals of student transportation safety:
• Always look both ways while crossing the street, even in bus loading zones.
• Always stay clear of the 10-foot “danger zone” that surrounds the bus.
• Maintain decorum on the bus by speaking in normal tones and always staying seated.
• Stay away from strangers.
We must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our children and ensure they get to and from school in a safe and responsible manner. Our children are our future.
Illinois Secretary of State