Slow down for school buses

This week, Trumbull’s roads will be transformed twice a day into bustling, child-filled thoroughfares where traffic is likely to stop and start and back up as buses make their rounds getting children to and from school. Take a deep breath. Keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. School’s in.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 55 million children throughout the country are heading back to school this year. Starting Tuesday, Aug. 26, Trumbull students will be returning to class. Most of them will be waiting on street corners and the side of roads in the mornings and getting off buses onto the streets in the afternoon.

Now is the time to remind everyone in the family to take extra time and use extra caution when traveling local roads.

Those with school-aged children should talk to them about bus safety, and the importance of taking the rules seriously. Children should always wait for their bus driver’s OK before crossing in front of a bus. They also need to know that admonitions to stay seated and talk quietly are not meant to be a punishment, but are meant to reduce distractions for drivers who have the lives of 40 to 60 kids in their hands.

Other drivers need to be extra careful during the early morning and afternoon when buses are carrying their precious cargo. AAA of New England says the afternoon hours are particularly dangerous, with nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.

Never, never, never pass a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing. Never. No place you “have to get to” is more important than the life of the child that may be crossing in front of the bus that’s stopped.

Other important reminders from AAA:

• Slow down. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

• Come to a complete stop. Research shows more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.

• Eliminate distractions. Research shows taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or darting out from a driveway. Put away the phones and the sandwiches while behind the wheel.

• Reverse with extreme care. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.

Especially over the next several weeks, as children, parents, and bus drivers are getting used to new routines, use an overabundance of caution on Trumbull’s roads. Give yourself a little more time in the mornings and evenings, take that deep breath when you get behind the wheel, and enjoy watching the smiling faces of school children as they begin their new year.