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Eyes wide open: School buses are back on the road

Date: Thursday, August 25, 2022

"school bus"Imagine having to transport every person in the city of Des Moines – twice a day. Think of the logistics. For school officials, however, there’s nothing to imagine there. That’s because 205,538 Iowa students are transported to and from school. Every school day.

The ubiquitous yellow school buses are back on the road as school starts up throughout Iowa. And drivers are once again urged to practice caution when approaching a school bus.

"As we move into a new school year, be sure to pay special attention to the big yellow school buses rolling down the road,” said Max Christensen, a consultant with the Iowa Department of Education. “Those buses are transporting our very most precious cargo – our children – who are our future.”

“Do your part by paying attention and driving slowly and cautiously when near a school bus – a child's life may depend on it."

Christensen said there are over 4,500 school buses out on the road any given school day (and another 1,500 vehicles used as buses) driving 204,680 miles each day throughout the state. The sheer number of buses – and miles driven – increase the odds of problems.

“Buses are big and yellow and are equipped with all the flashing lights and stop arms for a reason – to protect our kids,” Christensen said. “Many buses now are equipped with cameras, so that drivers who fail to follow the proper procedures when encountering a school bus can face steep fines.”

Christensen stressed the importance of knowing the laws pertaining to encountering a school bus. He also said that parents should talk to their children about bus-safety etiquette.

Here are some reminders for drivers:

  • When the bus’s yellow flashers turn on, that signifies that it is preparing to have a 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 heavy fines plus court costs.

Here are reminders for students:

  • 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't 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.