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OHP eyes bus safety

Law enforcement officials are asking Lawrence County schoolchildren to heed several life-saving tips as they begin and end each day with a bus ride.

Saturday, October 21, 2000

Law enforcement officials are asking Lawrence County schoolchildren to heed several life-saving tips as they begin and end each day with a bus ride.

The Ohio Highway Patrol’s Ironton post has spent the past several weeks going school-to-school, and even riding on school buses, preparing for National School Bus Safety Week.

Activities are designed to teach youngsters how to be safe on the bus.

"We began our version of the program three weeks ago," OHP trooper Chris Smith said. "We began this year by going to several of the elementaries and educating those kids."

In the last three weeks, more than 3,000 youngsters have heard proper safety techniques when boarding or exiting a school bus, he added.

Smith said contacting every student within the one-week window is difficult to accomplish.

"Because of our manpower, we try to spread our coverage out to allow us to contact all schools that don’t have their own safety program," he said. "The whole intent of this program is to keep kids safe when traveling to and from school, and teach them to avoid any injuries or even deaths."

Several hundred children are killed, and thousands injured, every year because of school bus-related mishaps, he said.

"One major point stressed in this program is to educate kids on the proper way to carry their bookbags when entering and exiting a school bus," Smith said.

Students should not carry bookbags on their back when boarding or leaving a school bus, he said.

"Whether the bag is hung or grasped, students should make sure their left hand is free to use the handrail when entering the bus," he said. "When exiting the bus, students need to make sure their right hand is free. And, they should be sure to use the handrails to avoid falls."

Bookbags should rest over the right arm when getting on a bus, but should be carried on the left arm when getting off, he added.

"A lot of injures and deaths happen due to kids having bookbags on their backs and getting caught in bus doors," Smith said.

He said teachers can help reduce the risk of injury by taking appropriate measures to eliminate long straps on bookbags and long strings that dangle from clothing.

Students should also be aware of an area around the bus known as the "danger zone," Smith said.

"We’re educating kids to take six giant steps, or move about 10 feet from the bus," he said. "If they need to cross in front of the bus, they should take six giant steps away from the bus, then six giant steps to the front of the bus and watch for the driver’s hand signals."

Many injuries also result from children running along the side of the bus in the danger zone, he added.

For motorists, they should be cautious of yellow flashing lights that indicate the bus is preparing to stop, and the red flashing lights that indicate the bus is stopped.

"Outside of this program, (Ironton City Schools safety director) Dave Lawless has an outstanding program," Smith said. "We try to work very closely with Dave as well as all the other safety directors in the county. In the last several years, we have seen a mild reduction in injuries as a result of this program."