AISD pushes safety tips after close calls, crashes with students

An AISD high school student hit by a truck on Aug. 30 on Courtyard Drive. (AISD Photo)
An AISD high school student hit by a truck on Aug. 30 on Courtyard Drive. (AISD Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In light of recent crashes where students were hit by drivers who failed to stop for bus stop arms, the transportation director for the Austin Independent School District is reminding children on how to safely cross at in intersection.

Transportation director Kris Hafezizadeh said buses can block students’ line of sight, and make it tough to see drivers who may be ignoring the stop sign on the side of the school bus. That is why he is urging students to step away from the bus and make eye contact with the bus driver before they cross.

“Take 10 giant steps back to be away from the bus,” said Hafezizadeh

Hafezizadeh explained that once the student makes eye contact with the bus driver, the driver can look in their mirrors to see if a driver is approaching on the left side. If there is an all-clear, the driver will wave the student through.

One of the students who was struck last year, a 12-year-old, was Amy McFadden’s son. It happened at St. Elmo Road and South First Street while he was walking home from school.

“He spun away from the car,” said McFadden. “If he had been more toward the center he could’ve spun under the car and that’s the part I cannot bear to think about.”

After watching the video, it’s hard to believe he and the other student walked away without a scratch. In both cases, the drivers failed to see the same thing.

“The big, big thing — if you see buses, red lights flashing and the stop arm is out please stop,” said AISD Interim Police Chief Chris Evoy.

McFadden is thankful the cameras are in place to illustrate the problem and catch those breaking the law.

“I know nobody likes to get a ticket, but nobody likes to get the phone call where your kid is crying because they’ve been hit getting off the bus,” said McFadden.

Drivers caught with the school bus technology ignoring a stop sign get a $300 ticket in the mail. AISD says about 12,000 tickets were mailed to drivers during the 2016-2017 school year.

Hafezizadeh says they are not seeing a dip in violations because the company behind the camera system improved the technology twice in the last 18 months, which makes it easier to read license plates.

Bus safety tips:

  • Always remain in direct eyesight of the bus driver.
  • Arrive at the bus stop in plenty of time, at least five minutes prior to the scheduled time.
  • Take 10 giant steps back from the curb while waiting for the bus and 10 steps away from the curb when exiting the bus.
  • Never try to re-board the bus without the driver’s permission to retrieve an item after exiting.
  • Never reach underneath the bus.
  • Always follow the driver’s directions for how to cross the street.
  • Be alert to traffic and look both ways.
  • Always cross in front of the bus, but only when the bus driver signals it is safe.
  • Walking and biking to school can be a great option, but students are encouraged to wear bright colors when doing so. Bright colors help drivers see students, but go the extra mile and wave to drivers before crossing the road to ensure they see you.

Editor’s Note: A correction from the school district Tuesday said AISD’s transportation director originally misspoke when he said students should cross the street once the bus has pulled away. The story has been updated with the correct information.

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