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Safety First: Drivers Are Reminded of Laws Regarding School Bus Safety

“Use your head, stop when the lights are red.” While school bus safety week is actually in October with the recent flooded road conditions and construction drivers are once again being reminded to be aware school buses are continuing to drop off and pick up students as the school year is winding to a close.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “for twenty three million students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus – the greatest risk is not riding the bus, but approaching or leaving the bus.”

Bus monitors at Cooper Independent School District have had some recent concerns that many drivers might not be educated on the traffic laws created for the right of way of school buses. These buses are carrying precious cargo.

“We currently have 11 school buses on the roads each school day (this is not include traveling to any other school events),” said Cooper ISD Director of School Operations Doug Wicks. “We have had a few reports especially in town the last few weeks. It is mainly with vehicles coming towards a bus that the drivers are not paying attention.” The school has three in town routes, and the buses are usually running from 6:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. and from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The problem with drivers not stopping has become increasingly worse with the use of cell phones and other inside the vehicle distractions. Cell phone use in school zones is prohibited.

Learning the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:

Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.

Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Two-lane roads: vehicles in BOTH directions must stop. Multi-lane paved across roads: vehicles traveling in both directions must stop. Divided Highway (which includes raised median or physical barrier): vehicles behind bus must stop, vehicles traveling in the opposite direction are cautioned to slow down but not required to stop. Wicks noted their routes are designed so that students will not have to cross a median or divided highway.

“We try to emphasis to our school bus drivers to be defensive in their travels,” said Wicks. “We urge them to not assume a driver is watching and will stop but to look for the signs they are slowing down to stop.” Their buses are equipped with monitors and internal video cameras. However the next step if drivers continue to disobey the law will be to request external cameras.

“Monitors can submit license plate numbers to the Delta County Sheriff’s office but unless a patrol officer witnesses the offense no ticket – only a warning – can be issued,” added Wicks, keeping the students’ safety a top priority.