In 2010, more than 3,000 people were killed and an estimated 416,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to U.S. government statistics.
The distracted driving problem appears to be having a significant impact on my school district.
Since January 2012, the School District of Manatee County (Fla.) has experienced nine accidents involving other vehicles running into our school buses. Some of these accidents happened when our buses were stopped at traffic controls — red lights and stop signs — and some happened as buses were in motion, moving 5 to 25 mph.
As if those nine accidents were not nine too many, there were also frightening accidents that took place while our buses were loading or unloading students.
All nine of the vehicles that hit our buses were totaled, and all nine drivers of those vehicles said that they did not see the bus.
It is inconceivable that a person could miss such a large object in front of them. Typical large buses are about nine feet wide and 40 feet long, and they are painted yellow and have bright lights and stop arms. So how could the other drivers not see the bus?
We have been very fortunate that no one was injured — neither drivers nor students — in these incidents. Thank God and our big, yellow school buses.
We must all realize that distractions can have a major impact on our life or someone else’s life. If not today, then soon.
Our message to the public is to please give room when you see a yellow school bus. Obey the laws, put the cell phone down and know that our children, our future, are inside that bus.
At this time, there is no law in place in the state of Florida that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving. But 39 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers. Ten states and the District of Columbia prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
Spreading the word
Local media have covered the issue by reporting on Distracted Driving Month, which was in April, and the accidents involving our buses. The message is out, both in paper and on TV news, and only time will tell if it has made an impact.
Through district in-service training, employees are being asked to spread the word by asking people in the community to be more aware of their surroundings — especially when following a big, yellow school bus.
One last note: On a day in 2011, we conducted a count of illegal drive-bys while our buses were loading or unloading students, and 148 drive-bys were noted. In a single day in 2012, more than 600 vehicles illegally drove by our buses.
Were those drivers distracted?
Can u c me now? We hope so.
Don Ross is director of vehicle maintenance and transportation at the School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla. He is also a member of SBF’s editorial advisory board.