Surviving The School Year

By Brien McElhatten

June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 11, 2009 at 12:40 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Federal data shows more than 1,000 people people have died nationwide in school transportation related accidents since 1996. With the school year beginning, educators and law enforcement want you and your children to stay safe.

Standing before a row of dozens of yellow school buses, Sergeant Ron Galaviz of the Indiana State Highway Patrol reminds us of a few simple safety tips.

"Parents need to make sure to have their children out to the bus stop at a time appropriate for them catching the bus," said Galaviz. "We don't want to see kids running, trying to catch the bus at the last second."

Galaviz says children can experience tunnel vision when running late to catch the bus. That can leave them virtually blind to traffic dangers.

Statistics from the National Highway Safety Administration show that since 1996,159 school children have died in crashes involving school vehicles. Out of those, 50% were between the ages of five and seven. About 28% were killed by vehicles other than the school bus.

"Children sometimes run, they dart, they do the unexpected. When a school bus is stopped, take an extra second or two to make sure the children are completely loaded on the bus," added Galaviz.

Sue Cash serves as the safety coordinator of transportation for Fort Wayne Community Schools. She agrees with Galaviz, but adds that safety on the bus is just as important as safety at the bus stop.

"Our routing, our training for the drivers, the vehicles, everything. The first priority is safety," said Cash.

Cash says drivers undergo extensive training. They must earn a class B commercial driver's license with air brake, passenger and school bus endorsement. On top of that, Cash says drivers in Fort Wayne have additional training sessions with a staff instructor and must meet more stringent requirement as well.

On July 1st, a new law went into effect in Indiana that requires all drivers to search their bus for children after their route. This ensures no children are left on the bus. That happened several times throughout the state last year.

Stay tuned for Indiana's NewsCenter for the latest on back to school 2009.

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