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Education department offers bus safety tips

From staff reports

MONTGOMERY — With the 2014-2015 school year under way, motorists are cautioned to be careful as they travel along Alabama’s streets and roads as school buses are again on the road loading and unloading students.

According to the Alabama State Department of Education Pupil Transportation Section, the most dangerous part of a school bus ride is when the bus stops to load or unload students. All too often, students are placed in danger by careless or distracted motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus. In many instances, students are injured or killed as a result of these illegal passings.

In the ALSDE’s most recent annual survey of illegal school bus passings conducted in April 2013, 1,713 motorists were recorded as illegally passing Alabama school buses in one day. Over an entire school year, this could result in more than 308,000 illegal passings of school buses with each one endangering the lives of students.

“The most dangerous part of a school bus ride is when the bus stops to load or unload students,” said Joe Lightsey, director of Pupil Transportation. “We urge motorists to be particularly careful whenever they see a school bus stopping. Alabama’s children are our most precious resource. We owe it to them to make sure we do all we can to provide safe transportation to and from school.”

These rules should be adhered to year round, according to the state department:

  • On a two-lane road or street, motorists approaching a school bus from either direction must stop when the bus displays flashing red warning lights and extends the stop signal arm.
  • Vehicles may not pass until the flashing red lights and signals are turned off.
  • Drivers traveling in the same direction as the bus are always required to stop.
  • On a divided (separate roadways with median) highway of at least four lanes, drivers traveling in the opposite direction of the bus are not required to stop. However, they should proceed with all due caution. Always watching for children.
  • Never pass on the right side of a school bus where children enter or exit. Parents should discuss school bus safety with their children.

The department advises students who ride school buses to arrive at their bus stops at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive and stay 10 to 15 feet away from the roadway.

Motorists can be fined between $150 and $300 if they illegally pass a stopped school bus. The fine increases as the amount of offenses increases.

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