One of the most important traffic laws you can encounter and should always obey is the signals and stop sign on a school bus. It is important because many children believe the area around a bus is a safe area and may not always be checking for traffic or blind spots. However, it looks like many Tennessee drivers are ignoring school buses and putting young lives in danger.
In the spring of 2018, Tennessee bus drivers were part of a national survey that looked at traffic behaviors around school buses. More than 2700 bus drivers in the state participated. The results that came back from the state Director of Student Transportation are cause for concern.
In just one day of reporting, Tennessee bus drivers reported that over 1100 drivers passed the buses illegally. The breakdown showed that 484 happened during the morning and 609 came after school. In addition, over 800 drivers passed illegally from the front of the bus and over 1000 passed on the critical left side of the bus.
As a refresher course on how to share the road with school buses, here are things you should do as a driver to stay within the laws.
Obey the stop arm from the bus
When school buses are loading and unloading children, the bus will extend out a stop sign. All lanes of traffic must obey this stop signal from a bus. Many people are confused that it is only for the lane that is closest to the bus. However, many children cross the street before or after riding the bus and need a clear thoroughfare. When stopped, give a minimum of at least 10 feet of clearance from the bus.
Watch for flashing lights on the bus
School buses use flashing lights to show its intentions. Yellow flashing lights on both the front and back of the bus mean the bus is slowing down to do a pick-up or drop-off. Red flashing lights mean that the stop arm is out and the bus is in the process of picking up or dropping off.
Do not speed past a stopped bus
If you see a bus slowing down with its yellow lights flashing, you may anticipate the red lights flashing and try to quickly move past the bus. Many drivers not wanting to be inconvenienced by stopping try to hurry away. However, children may be running for the bus in any direction and could end up in your path.
Watch for children
Children do not always stand in a perfect line waiting for the bus to pick them up. As a bus is approaching, children tend to run from all over to get to the bus. Also, kids tend to run quickly after departing a bus in a rush to get home. It is best to keep watch not just at the bus, but all around the bus when you approach one.
As a driver, it is your responsibility to know that the lights and traffic signals on a bus should be adhered to with the same importance as any other traffic sign. An accident that involves a child around a school bus can be tragic and life altering for both the driver and victim.