School officials, health experts push driver safety ahead of school year

Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 5:21 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Whether you drive, take the bus, ride your bike, or walk to school, there will be more students and parents on the road very soon. At Rockford Public School’s Transportation hub, bus drivers are already getting their practice in, driving through the neighborhoods and refining various safety techniques.

As transportation safety officer for RPS 205, Rod George says a good day is a quiet day. He urges bus riders to follow simple rules to stay safe. George thinks it’s important to always make sure you keep eye contact with the driver and never walk behind them.

“Ten feet on each side of the bus is called the danger zone. Don’t be in there because if the bus driver misses you or you fall under the bus then that can be tragic,” he told 23 News.

However, it’s not just those riding the bus who should be careful near one. George says there are many aggressive drivers who try to pass the bus when it stops to let people off.

“Part of my job is, when people run stop arms, I have to report that to the police, and we have a lot of people run stop arms,” he said.

Back in May, a pickup truck allegedly blew past a stop arm, hitting 11-year-old Brenden Bourgord. He suffered a lacerated spleen, broken femur and ruptured diaphragm.

“He has recently just got approved to be off the walker so he’s doing great with his therapy and they’ve let him play around. You know, just basically be a kid, swimming but not all the hard sports,” said Brenden’s mom, Ashley.

Brenden was lucky, but the next person might not be. Ashley says our safe driving switch must be turned on at all times.

“Why risk driving and speeding and hitting a kid? What if that is your child?” she said.

Mara Thompson, a spokeswoman with The Red Cross of Illinois, agrees. Thompson says drivers shouldn’t just be careful around school buses, but everywhere.

“Cell phone away if they are driving to school. If they have friends in the car make sure they are not blasting music, just any of those easy distractions. Not eating or drinking while driving until they get to school and then checking in with their parents, making sure they got there safely is always a good idea as well,” Thompson said.

It’s also important though to stay safe if you are walking or biking to school. Thompson says there are some dangers for these commuters, especially if they are first-time walkers. She suggests walking the route with your child a couple of times so they get used to it and don’t get lost and make sure they always have your emergency contact information.

“So they should be able to know where you live, how to get in contact with you, your home phone number, and then if there is another trusted adult as well to reach out to that’s always good to have,” she said.

RPS 205 is always looking for more bus drivers, you can apply here.