AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Over the next couple of weeks, kids all across the Mahoning Valley will be heading back to school. For many of them, that means riding the bus.
Each year in Ohio, school buses travel more than one million miles taking kids to and from school. And each day, more than a million kids travel on the bus. With that many people involved, it’s important that everyone is aware and knows how to stay safe.
Tuesday, more than 460 drivers from nearly three dozen school districts around northeast Ohio gathered at Austintown Fitch High School for the 10th annual safety-in-service program, hosted by the district’s transportation department. With speakers from Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Department of Education, safety policies both on and off school buses were discussed.
All school bus drivers in the state must complete a four-hour program each year, according to Colleen Murphy-Penk, director of transportation services for Austintown Schools.
“These are our children, and the rules and regulations continue to change and improve, and the reason for that is because we continue to implement rules that we know that are going to keep our children safe,” she said.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, from 2013 to 2015, more than 3,800 crashes involving school buses were reported in the state – 87 in Mahoning County, 48 in Trumbull County and 25 in Columbiana County.
During that same period between 2013 and 2015, more than 4,000 drivers were convicted of failing to stop for a school bus, and troopers issued more than 1,500 citations.
Drivers should stop at least 10 feet behind a school bus with flashing lights and should not resume driving until the lights are off and the bus begins moving.
Murphy-Penk said bus drivers have to perform multiple tasks at the same time such as manage kids, look ahead at traffic, enforce rules and deal with parents.
About four years ago, Austintown came up with a new procedure to help keep students safe.
“The designated place of safety is where your child is to wait before and after the bus arrives. That is so that if the driver is distracted for any reason, they can look back and be assured that the child is not in the danger zone or where they can be harmed by that school bus,” Murphy-Penk said.