CONCORD — Commissioner John J. Barthelmes of the Department of Safety wishes to remind all motorists that schools will be opening throughout the state over the next several weeks.
Everyone can expect to encounter yellow school buses, both large and small, during morning and afternoon commuter hours and even during the evening as students are transported to and from school and school activities.
Last spring, just before school closed, there was an unexpected upsurge in reports of motorists colliding with school buses.
In nearly every case, the cause was determined to lie with the driver of the other vehicle, not the school bus.
Many of these crashes occurred when someone ran into the rear of the school bus.
“Nobody knows for sure how some motorists are missing large yellow buses with flashing red lights and stop arms, but it is happening,” Barthelmes said. “One thing for sure is the large numbers of motorists who take the chance of engrossing themselves in text messaging or a cell phone conversation while their vehicle is in motion.”
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that having a cell phone conversation while a vehicle is in motion is nearly as distracting even if using a “hands-free” cell phone, as with the conventional handheld phone.
Nationally, crashes involving distracted driving are killing more than nine people a day and injuring more than 400,000 people a year in the United States.
Nearly 20 percent of all crashes involve driver distraction.
The biggest cause is texting and cell phone usage, but some people have crashed while eating, shaving, applying makeup, looking in the back seat to discipline children, programming a GPS device, or even reading.
Some scientific studies indicate that texting and cell phone use while driving is as disruptive to coordination and control of a vehicle as driving while under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs, or misuse of prescription drugs, another factor that is more frequently involved with crashes these days.