Back to School: School Officials, Law Enforcement Talk School Bus Safety
With most local schools starting up this week, buses full of students will soon be out on area roadways, and the safety of those students is a major concern for school administrators and local law enforcement.
“It’s a big responsibility, and it’s something that we, and our bus contractor, take very seriously, as well,” Joe Carico, Superintendent of Clarion Area School District, told exploreClarion.com.
“We just really encourage people in the community to be very, very respectful of busses when they’re stopped and the lights are flashing. Exercise caution and please be aware, there are always kids entering and exiting those busses when they’re stopped. Some of these little guys, they think they’re safe when they see the bus stopped and the red lights flashing. We as adults driving cars have to be respectful of that.”
Superintendent David McDeavitt of AC Valley School District noted that according to a consumer report from 2017, there are roughly 25 million students who ride school buses in our nation every day.
“Our bus drivers are doing their best to keep students safe, and we ask that our community slow down in the mornings and after school hours in an effort to keep our students safe as well,” McDeavitt said.
“In addition, we ask our community members to report anything that may put our students at-risk, please contact the school district or the state police immediately.”
“Student safety is paramount,” said Shawn Algoe, Superintendent of Keystone School District.
“I often worry about distracted drivers who aren’t paying proper attention to the road. We do our best to identify offenders with School Bus Side Stop Signal Arm Enforcement Systems, but everyone has a responsibility to ensure the safety of our children.”
Algoe noted Keystone’s drivers go to great lengths to preview routes and familiarize themselves with bus stops and routing adjustments, and also alert the district to any concerns they may have that could require additional signage or stop adjustments.
He also recommended that parents review safety expectations at bus stops.
Superintendent John Mastillo of Redbank Valley School District said that their district had some issues with vehicles passing busses with their red stop lights flashing last year.
“That creates additional safety issues for our drivers,” Mastillo said.
“It’s important for the public to be aware there are going to be stops in their area of travel. Please don’t try to beat the yellow lights to get past the bus. Respect that the busses are carrying students, sometimes very young students, who may have to cross the road. Pay attention to the busses as they run.”
According to Mastillo, Redbank Valley has been working to implement a new set of standards and behavioral practices across all of their busses. They’ve revised their student code of conduct and have a new set of disciplinary processes in place to allow administrators and bussing contractors to work together to alleviate any issues. They will also be doing additional bus safety training with their students.
“We are trying to educate kids, make them aware, and provide constant reminders of the expectations we have,” he noted.
The schools aren’t the only ones watching out for student safety with school starting back up. According to Clarion Borough Police Chief William Peck IV, local police departments are gearing up for the new academic year, as well.
“Clarion Borough Police Department will be stepping up enforcement,” Chief Peck said.
“People should be aware the penalties for violations are stiff. The fines are pretty hefty and you can have your license suspended.”
Chief Peck also noted the Clarion Borough Police are working on implementing a new program, with cooperation from the school district, to have an officer riding on busses.
“It will give us an opportunity to interact with the children, so they can get more comfortable with us, and to step up enforcement on violators for not stopping for buses,” he noted.
The Pennsylvania State Police are also emphasizing student safety. According to Trooper Ronald Chewning, Community Services Officer for Pennsylvania State Police Troop C, troopers will be traveling to various schools throughout the region to provide students with bus safety information.
The Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) have also released a reminder for motorists to be alert for school bus stop locations to keep children safe as they get on and off the bus.
According to the release, Pennsylvania Law, Title 75, Section 3345 requires that motorists approaching a stopped school bus with a stop arm extended and red lights flashing shall stop at least 10 feet away from the school bus, whether approaching from behind or from the opposite direction. The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection at which a school bus is stopped shall stop his vehicle at that intersection until the flashing red signal lights are no longer actuated.
The penalties for a violation of this section include a $250.00 fine, a 60-day driver’s license suspension, and 5 points on the motorist’s driving record.
According to PennDOT Initiative, Operation Safe Stop, “If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.”
The release urges parents and caregivers to take time to discuss the importance of school bus safety with their children, namely the potential dangers associated with other vehicles approaching a stopped school bus. PennDOT offers these safety tips to share with children:
- When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and line up at least five giant steps away from the curb or the roadway to wait for the bus
- Never run after the school bus if it has already left the bus stop
- Never push when getting on or off the school bus
- Always walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus when crossing so that the school bus driver can see you
- When the school bus is moving, always stay in your seat and never put your head, arms or hands out of the window
- Never cross the street behind the school bus
- Never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into a car with a stranger
For additional information regarding school bus safety including fact sheets, graphics, and more safety tips, please visit PennDOT’s school bus safety resource page.
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