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Be on the lookout for school bus 'danger zone'

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is urging motorists to become familiar with the rules of the road when it comes to buses and pedestrians as the new school year gets under way.

Officials stress motorists should be aware of crossing pedestrians around school buses, and at all marked and unmarked crosswalks and intersections.

DPS reminds motorists to anticipate children, especially in a school bus "danger zone" - the area around a bus where most injuries and deaths occur.

More children are killed outside of a school bus than as bus occupants.

Officials also ask parents to discuss and demonstrate pedestrian safety with their children and reinforce safe crossing after exiting a bus.

DPS data shows that school bus crashes are declining. During 2006 to 2008, there were 1,968 traffic crashes involving school buses. However, in 2008, there were 663 crashes - a 3 percent drop from the previous year.

In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 school bus trips daily, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for children - children are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicle.

Each year, young people - age 24 years and younger - account for one-third of those killed and nearly half of those seriously injured in pedestrian crashes.

In Minnesota, between 2006 and 2008, 96 pedestrians were killed in crashes and another 2,748 were injured. Failure to yield the right-of-way and driver inattention or distraction are the main contributing factors in vehicle/pedestrian crashes.

"Slow down, pay attention and anticipate pedestrians, especially in crosswalks and around school buses," said Lieutenant Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol. "Driving aware is the simplest thing motorists can do to prevent a crash."

DPS offers these safety tips for pedestrians and motorists around schools and other high-traffic areas:

School children:

•When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder (side of the road).

•Before crossing the street, take five "giant steps" out from the front of the bus, or until the driver's face can be seen.

•Wait for the driver to signal that it's safe to cross.

•Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.

Pedestrians:

•Cross only at intersections or crosswalks.

•Obey all traffic signs and signals.

•Do not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is too close or moving too fast to stop safely.

•Remember, the law requires pedestrians take responsibility for their own safety.

Motorists:

•Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights or stop arm when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

•Red flashing lights on buses indicates students are either entering or exiting the bus.

•Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway - but they should remain alert for children.

•Watch for pedestrian traffic and prepare to stop if a pedestrian is approaching the intersection.

•Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

•Remember, the law applies to both intersections with marked and unmarked crosswalks.

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