(PIKESVILLE,Md. MSP – As summer winds down and students begin heading back to school between this week and after Labor Day, Maryland State Police are reminding motorists about  school bus safety.

Troopers say drivers need  to be on alert for school buses and not to ignore the red flashing lights when a bus is stopped. Those caught breaking the law could face  a $570 fine and a three-point penalty on their driver’s license.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2007 to 2016, there were 281 school-age children killed in school transportation-related crashes: 58 were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 116 were occupants of other vehicles, 98 were pedestrians, eight were pedalcyclists and one was another non-occupant. Also, more school-age pedestrians were killed from 6 to 7 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hour of the day, according to the NHTSA.

The Maryland Highway Safety Office has compiled the following tips for sharing the road safely with school buses:

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but not  about getting there safely.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
  • Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the “alternately flashing warning light” system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists.
    1. Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop.
    2. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists approaching from either direction must wait until the red lights stop flashing before proceeding.
    3. If the bus stops along one side of a highway divided by a median.  drivers in the lanes where the school bus is not located do not have to stop.  If the lane is not divided by a median,  drivers need to stop.

By Bob Dacey