Beware. Be aware. Students, buses hit the roads this week
When school is in full session, the approximately 6,000 school buses in the state will haul 239,000 children (twice a day) over 227,000 miles. That’s comparable to driving all of the residents in the city of Des Moines to the moon in one day.
And it’s that time of year where starting Thursday, buses will again be pulling onto Iowa’s roads after the summer break.
To drivers: Beware of your responsibilities when it comes to a stopped school bus.
To students: Beware of drivers who may not be aware.
“Pay attention while you’re driving,” said Transportation Consultant Max Christensen of the Iowa Department of Education. “Lots of the vehicles that illegally pass by school buses are caused by distraction. Sometimes drivers are unaware of what they should be doing in a situation. But the bottom line is that kids being kids, they will dart out into the road without necessarily looking for traffic.”
It’s been six years since a fatality – 7-year-old Kadyn Jade Halverson was killed when she was hit by a vehicle exiting a bus. That prompted the Legislature to ensure tougher penalties on violators, but there are still plenty of violations that occur daily.
Christensen noted that in May, 30 percent of the state’s school bus drivers took a voluntary survey and cited that there were 265 pass-by violations – in one day.
“And that was just a fraction of them reporting, so you know the actual number state wide is much higher,” he said.
Though most new school buses are equipped with outside video cameras – they record the license plate and frequently the driver, too – the vast majority of school buses still are not equipped.
Following are reminder for both drivers and students.
- When the bus’s yellow flashers turn on, that signifies that it is preparing to have child get on or off the bus. All vehicles behind the bus must come to a complete stop.
- If you are approaching a bus from the opposite direction, slow your speed to 20 mph when the bus turns on its yellow flashers.
- On a two-lane road, traffic in both directions must come to a full stop when the lights are flashing red.
- On a four-lane road, traffic moving in the opposite direction must slow down and proceed with caution when either red or yellow flashers are present.
- Stop your vehicle at least 15 feet from the bus.
- Remain stopped until the flashing lights are turned off and the stop arm is pulled back in.
- Failure to comply could result in a fine of $250 plus court costs.
- Stop and look both ways before crossing a street.
- Make sure your bus driver can see you when you are crossing in front of the bus. If you can see the driver, the driver cannot see you.
- Never cross behind the bus.
- When getting on or off the bus, never cross the street until the bus driver signals it’s OK to cross.
- If you drop something near the bus, do not pick it up. Instead, tell the bus driver what you dropped, and let the driver instruct you on what to do.
The Iowa Department of Transportation has more information on school bus safety.