Editorial

Obey school bus laws, save a fine and keep kids safe

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The young people in your home may groan when the subject comes up, but if theyíre not already in school, their days of summer vacation are down to a handful.

Despite their protests, deep down theyíre probably excited about getting back into the swing of things, reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones and learning new things.

Sadly, itís a dangerous time for kids who are simply trying to get to school, too often because of irresponsible adults.

From August 2018 to March 2019, 12 children were killed and another 47 injured while getting on and off school buses.

According to a one-day count by the Kansas Department of Education, as many as 15 million cars each year are improperly passing school buses with extended stop signs or flashing lights.

A pair of 6-year-old twins and their 9-year-old stepsister were killed and another was hurt in Rochester, Indiana, on Oct. 29, 2018, while they were waiting for their school bus, which had it stop arm extended and lights flashing.

The next day, a 9-year-old boy was killed in Mississippi and a kindergarten student was injured in Tallahassee by a driver who told police he didnít realize the bus had stopped.

And the stories go on and on.

Twenty-two states, not Nebraska, have stop-arm camera laws to catch motorists who illegally pass school buses.

California has had a law since 1932 that requires school bus drivers to walk with students in K-8 when they need to cross a roadway, and must verbally tell students when itís safe to cross.

Not long ago, the Unicameral made passing a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children a Class IV misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and 3-point deduction from a violatorís driverís license.

According to Nebraska law, when a school bus is about to stop and load or unload children, the bus driver activates amber warning lights. When meeting or overtaking a bus, slow to 25 mph and prepare to stop. The Ameber warning lights will stay on until the bus door opens.

When the bus driver opens the bus door, the red stop lights and STOP arm activates. Stop and remain stopped until the bus driver retracts the stop arm and deactivates the red warning lights.

Stop a reasonable distance from the bus.

The only exception to stopping when a school bus has stop lights on and the stop arm extended is when approaching a school bus in the opposite direction on a roadway divided by a median.

The same cautions apply, of course, for kids who walk or bike to school, or who are dropped off by their parents. Todayís Walk to School night is a great time for kids and parents to practice safety.

The McCook Police Department is faithful about patroling school zones, and crossing guards are on duty. Letís do our best to make their jobs easier.

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