SIDNEY – With the start of the school year just around the corner, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart wants parents to remind their children about school bus safety.
“We’ll be seeing those yellow buses on the road in the next few days,” Lenhart said during his weekly interview.
Approximately 23 million American children will ride a school bus to school this year, Lenhart said, and the buses are designed to ensure the safety of those kids.
The highly visible yellow color, reflective strips, flashing lights and signs are some of the safety features on each bus. Additionally, drivers must complete extensive training and obtain a special license. And each bus must pass inspections by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“It’s 70 times more safe to ride a school bus to school versus a car,” Lenhart said.
While a lot is done to protect children, approximately 15,000 kids a year are taken to the emergency room because of injuries sustained around buses. And in the past three years the number of kids injured around school buses has increased, often because they’re distracted, Lenhart said.
“Kids get in trouble because they listen to iPods, play handheld video games while they’re walking to the bus stop, getting on the bus, et cetera,” he said.
Children, accompanied by a parent or older sibling, should give themselves plenty of time to get to the bus stop so they don’t rush and trip.
“As parents, we want you to walk your children to the bus stop and wait for the bus to arrive,” Lenhart said. “And arrive early.”
At the bus stop, kids shouldn’t talk to strangers, and any suspicious activity should be reported.
“Be aware of strangers,” Lenhart said. “You don’t need to talk to them. Report anyone hanging around in that setting.”
While waiting for the bus to arrive, kids should stand three giant steps back from the curb and wait for the bus to completely stop before stepping forward. Kids should use the handrails while boarding and exiting a bus.
If a kid drops something, they should make eye contact with the bus driver before retrieving the item to ensure the driver sees them.
While riding a bus, kids should remain seated and face forward. If seat belts are available, they should wear them.
“A lot of activity on the buses,” Lenhart said. “A lot of talking and sometime screaming. Tell your children to keep that to a bare minimum.
“I think most bus drivers don’t want you to eat or drink on there either.”
Children shouldn’t throw anything out of a window and shouldn’t play with emergency exits. They should keep aisles clear and follow all rules set by the driver and school district.
When picking up their children at the end of the day, parents should wait on the side of the road where their kids will exit the bus. That way the children won’t have to cross the road by themselves.
As the school year begins, it’s a good time to remind children about bus safety, especially this year, Lenhart said.
“This year in school is not a normal setting,” he said. “No matter how old the child is, this is a different year. You have to explain things.”
Lenhart also provided an update on how COVID-19 has affected the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. The office is slowly returning to normal after several employees were quarantined because of exposure to the virus, he said.
About half of the employees who were quarantined have returned to work while five or six are still out. In four or five days all but one should be back to work, he said.
It takes two or three days for law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians to get COVID-19 test results, Lenhart said. While they await their test results, it costs their departments overtime to cover their shifts.
Lenhart wishes the first responders would receive treatment like Gov. Mike DeWine received when he was tested three times over two days last week and got the results back within hours.
“It would seem to me the men and women who do the heavy lifting out here, it would be nice if that was much faster,” Lenhart said.
Lenhart also said the Shelby County Animal Shelter is at maximum capacity for adoptable cats with more waiting to come into the shelter. He urged anyone who wants to adopt a cat to visit the shelter.
“We need good homes for cats,” he said. “We can only hold so many, and we’re at that limit.
“If somebody is in need of a cat, please call the animal shelter.”
Anyone who is interested in adopting an animal can call the shelter at 937-498-7201 to set up an appointment.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.