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Drew: Sharing the road with a school bus

By Samuetta Hill Drew

In recent weeks media have broadcast sad and tragic stories about children being killed at bus stops around the nation.  To some this may appear strange but, from past experiences in my former position which involved oversight of several school district departments with transportation being one of them, I am not surprised.  It was always amazing how drivers could hit a large yellow vehicle such as a bus.  Naturally, the reasons varied but, typically it was due to distracted driving.  This is why the stories are not surprising but rather sad that drivers don’t always follow the law and practice the safety rules pertaining to sharing the road with school buses.

So, what are the rules? Let’s first start with Alabama law which forbids drivers from passing a stopped school or church bus on any road.  The only exception would be drivers traveling on a divided highway of at least four lanes, provided the driver is on the opposite side of the thoroughfare from the stopped bus.

Recently many states have made it a felony to pass a stopped school bus, so it is best to practice these safety rules and avoid preventable tragedies.  When the school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing and its stop arm extended, you must stop your vehicle at least 10-20 feet from the bus.  Oncoming traffic and motorists approaching the bus from behind may NOT move until the stop arm is retracted and the red lights are no longer flashing.

Morning drivers are rushing to get to work while afternoon drivers are eager to get home from work but be patient when sharing the road with a school bus. Maintain a safe distance from the school bus because you’re aware it will make frequent stops.  Impatient driving often results in poor decisions that could potentially lead to tragedy. So, anticipate the stops and watch out for the brake lights so you can start braking immediately, if necessary.

Always be on the lookout for children!  Younger and older children are frequently laughing and talking as they exit the bus and may not always follow the safety rules associated with crossing the street or staying away from the curb so move very cautiously and slowly behind a school bus after it has stopped.

If you’re driving in front of a school bus, be aware of children waiting at the bus stop. Usually they will be waiting near the roadway.  Where it is always the duty of drivers to drive defensively but, in this case be extra cautious and alert.

Try to avoid driving in the blind spot of a school bus.  Always pass a school bus on the left- hand side only.  Loading and unloading of children occurs on the right side of the bus only.

Yes, school buses drive slower during peak drive times and may interrupt traffic with its frequent stops, but as a driver it is your responsibility to Keep an Eye on Safety at all times.