Don’t Mess With Morelia
A Mom's Perspective on Bus Safety
Worst case scenario mom. That’s my parent type. I’m not a helicopter mom or an antibacterial gel parent. I think of the worst possible situation. Then comes the paralyzing fear.
When it came to my baby girl riding the bus to preschool, I imagined so many scenarios – terrible crashes, outlandish kidnappings (I read too many spy novels). But I never imagined the one scenario that has happened TWICE since she started school.
The roads and sidewalks in my subdivision were snow-covered and slippery. It was just after 7 am, sun shining meekly. My daughter, Morelia, and I slowly made our way to the bus. We were at the end of our driveway – looking both ways, as we have to cross one lane of traffic– when we heard the bus driver blast the horn.
A young driver, clearly reading her phone with her head down, nearly drove straight through the bus’s arm and stop sign.
We all make mistakes. It is so easy to get distracted. But if I wasn’t paying attention, or the bus driver noticed too late, I might not be writing this story. My silly, sweet little girl might not be here at all.
As the young driver looked up at the scene, she saw Morelia and me – and the bus with lights flashing - just feet from her car. She looked mortified. I hope that feeling, that close miss, sticks with her. Her life – not to mention ours - would have changed forever. I hope she will drive safer and be more aware. I hope she will put down the phone.
Not five school days later, similar road conditions and scenario, another driver in my subdivision DOES stop but has an adult tantrum. He’s so angry. The bus driver literally gets out of the bus and stands in front of the car so he cannot drive through the stop sign.
The whole process of the bus stopping, Morelia getting on and settled, and the bus taking off takes three minutes at most even on the iciest of days. I could not believe this person got so angry and animated. Did he really think getting to wherever he was going was so much more important than a child’s safety?
I wondered if my two experiences were common. I reached out to my cousin who is a school bus driver in the Dallas – Fort Worth area. Unfortunately, it is very common. He often sees aggressiveness toward buses, people driving distracted, and drivers not stopping all together.
Fortunately, my cousin has never been involved in an accident. But not everyone is so lucky. In October 2018, an Indiana family’s worst nightmare came true. They lost three children, their six-year-old twin boys and their nine-year-old daughter, in a horrific bus crash.
I cannot even begin to imagine the pain felt since that terrible fall day. That of the parents and family, their town, the bus driver, the school, the list goes on.
The incident drew national media attention. It spawned local legislative and safety discussions, but it seems tragedies like this do not change behavior. Just a few days later, another child was tragically killed. What will it take for the young distracted driver who nearly blew through a bus stop sign and the man who felt his time took precedence over my daughter’s safety to learn the error in their ways?
Every day approximately 84,000 people/cars illegally pass school buses. That's 15 MILLION violations a year, according to 2018 national survey.
What can we do about it? I’m very fortunate my employer, State Farm, cares about safety. They allowed me to “take over” this site for a day to share my story, and more importantly, share tips that could help prevent future tragedies. Maybe we can’t change everyone’s behavior. But the more we share this story and tips, the more aware people will be. Please join me in sharing this important information.
Bus Safety Tips
For Parents of Riders
- Wait with the little ones at the bus stop. Ensure you and your child are visible at the stop as well.
- Teach your kids to stand - at a minimum - three giant steps from the curb and board one at a time.
- Teach your kids to wait until the school bus completely stops before getting off, and always walk in front of the bus, not behind.
- If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, teach them to take these three actions:
- make sure the bus driver sees them,
- take five giant steps in front of the bus,
- then cross, only when the driver gives them the go-ahead it is safe,
- And of course, teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.
- Teach your child the importance of behaving on the bus – any distraction can cause the bus driver to lose focus and could result in a crash.
- Be aware of your environment. Know your neighborhood. Be cognizant of kids. Take alternative routes that do not go by schools, etc. if you are in a rush. (Seriously folks, it’s not like you’ve never seen a school bus or it’s all that shocking that a bus is picking up kids at 7:30 in the morning on a Monday!?!)
- Follow the speed limit (and the LAW) especially in school zones and at bus stops.
- Never drive distracted. Please put down your phone. Learn more about the cell phone laws in your state.
- Slow down and prepare to stop if a school bus is flashing its lights. This means the bus is preparing to stop (yellow) or already stopped (red), and children are getting on or off.
- Slow your roll. Three minutes is not worth the potential life-changing consequences for a child, or you.
The shareable, interactive image below shows more tips when you hover over the "+" signs.