UPDATE By Stephanie Salvatore at 5:30 PM
Within the past year, school bus accidents in Jefferson and Gadsden Counties have raised questions about how safe school buses really are, the level of training drivers receive and what goes on during the ride.
As part of National School Bus Safety week, school officials from surrounding counties gathered at the Capitol to urge drivers to follow traffic laws regarding buses.
"It's particularly alarming the number of people who do not understand the laws as far as the flashing light, the red stop bar, and the stop sign. So it's a great opportunity to get the word out, to remind the drivers to be a little bit more patient and just take half a second to obey those laws and it will save an accident and can save a life," says divisional director of transportation, Ronnie Youngblood.
Bus drivers make hundreds of stops every day, but they still have a responsibility to make sure each child gets home safely.
"Their role is so important because they set the tone for kids when they get on the bus in the beginning of the day, and they're the last ones who see them when they get off the bus," says Wakulla County Schools superintendent David Miller. "You can't be too safe when it comes to bus safety."
"It's good to stay in their seat, keep their seat belts on and be quiet while the bus driver is driving because it- the bus driver can get unfocused very quickly," adds Alexandra Swain, a 4th grader at Crawfordville Elementary.
The Governor's Highway Safety office says Florida has actually seen a reduction in overall traffic fatalities for the past four years - including a 14 percent drop from 2008 to 2009. But they say they have a long way to go because even one death is unacceptable.
Tallahassee, Florida –
The Florida Departments of Education, Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and Transportation today, October 14, recognized three Florida students for going above and beyond to promote the importance of school bus safety. The students received awards from the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation (FAPT) for taking first place in each of three divisions of a statewide poster contest. The theme for the poster contest, “Be Aware – Know the Danger Zone,” reminds motorists and students to be safe in and around school buses. During the week of Oct. 18-22, the three partnered agencies will encourage districts and communities to conduct motorist awareness activities and recognize dedicated transportation professionals and bus operators who work hard each day to ensure the safe and dependable transportation of students.
“This week serves as an excellent reminder that our school buses are the safest mode of transportation available to our students,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. “It also reminds us that no amount of sturdiness can replace a properly educated motorist who understands school bus safety and treats these vehicles with the respect they require as they go about delivering their precious cargo.”
During School Bus Safety Week, the Florida Departments of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) and Transportation (FDOT) urge Floridians to show their support by following all traffic laws and taking extra precautions when school buses are present.
“Drivers assume a great responsibility when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Director of the Florida Highway Patrol, Colonel John Czernis. “I encourage all licensed drivers and visitors to our state who travel in Florida to log on to FloridaSchoolBusSafety.gov for a refresher on Florida’s laws concerning passing a stopped school bus. The website contains a wealth of information about school bus safety in the Sunshine State.”
“Whether they are on a school bus, getting on or off a bus, walking to school, or riding in our car, we must be ever vigilant for the safety of our children. Especially in areas where we know there are kids and school buses,” said Governor's Highway Safety Representative Kevin Thibault. “Florida has seen a reduction in overall traffic fatalities for the past four years – a 14 percent reduction in 2009 from 2008 alone. But, there is a long way to go. Even one death is unacceptable.”
The first place winners in each division of Florida’s poster contest will be submitted to the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s (NAPT) competition. NAPT will feature an overall national poster winner during the 2011 National School Bus Safety Week (October 17-21, 2011).
Florida’s winners are as follows:
Division 1 Winners (Grades K through 2)
First Place – Jennifer Russell, Cypress Creek Elementary, Grade 1 - Volusia County
Second Place – Iris Qi, Cypress Creek Elementary, Grade 1 - Volusia County
Third Place – Mikaela Guzman, Palm Cove Elementary, Grade 2 - Broward County
Division II Winners (Grades 3 through 5)
First Place – Mary Silvestro, Hollywood Central Elementary, Grade 5 - Broward County
Second Place – Aleena Jackson, Palm Cove Elementary, Grade 5 - Broward County
Third Place – Paula Rodriguez, Hollywood Central Elementary, Grade 5 - Broward County
Division III Winners (Grades 6 through 8)
First Place – German Salazar, Jackson Heights Middle School, Grade 8 - Seminole County
Second Place – Madison Slage, Jackson Heights Middle School, Grade 8 - Seminole County
Third Place – Jada Brown, Jackson Heights Middle School, Grade 8 - Seminole County