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Valley Focus | Sylmar

Pupils Learn About School Bus Safety

January 15, 1998|DARRELL SATZMAN

Safe Moves brought its traveling "safety rodeo" to Sylmar Elementary School on Wednesday to help educate students, teachers and parents about a new state law designed to protect children who ride the bus to school.

The Thomas Edward Lanni School Bus Safety Act, which took effect Jan. 1, requires school bus drivers to flash red lights and display a "STOP" arm every time students are picked up or dropped off.

Under the new law, motorists approaching the bus in either direction are required to stop until the flashing lights are turned off. In addition, if students need to cross the street, the driver is required to accompany them while carrying a "STOP" sign.

Safe Moves, which receives funding from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the state Office of Traffic Safety and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has added information about the new law to its safety curriculum.

Founded in 1984, the group visits more than 600 county schools a year in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol. A detailed cardboard street scene, complete with houses, a hardware store and reckless drivers, helps instructors deliver their lessons about traffic safety.

"Last year we had 1,000 kids injured in traffic accidents and more than 25 fatalities," said Safe Moves Director Pat Hines, citing county statistics. "If 25 kids died in gang shootings we would be outraged, but we seem to think these accidents are just a part of life."

On Wednesday, lured into their best behavior by the promise of discount tickets to amusement parks, groups of enthusiastic students took turns participating in safety demonstrations on the school playground.

"It was fun," said Javier Villanueva, 7. "We learned a lot of things, like when the red lights are flashing, that means everyone has to stop."

"We teach safety in the classroom all the time," said Javier's second-grade teacher, Marsha Finch. "But getting it from a different point of view, with all the visuals, really helps it sink in."

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