Surviving the ‘danger zone’.
In the 2016- 2017 school year, eight students were killed nationwide while loading or unloading from a school bus. In just the last three days, five have been killed.
To avoid accidents, state law requires drivers to stop when a bus pulls over. Harlem School District director of transportation Don West says many times — some don’t.
“It’s definitely an issue,” said West. “We probably get a couple reports a week from drivers that someone ran their stop arm.”
West says drivers should stop at least 50 feet from a bus when they see flashing lights. This way, the bus driver can safely direct kids when to cross.
“The kids should cross in front of the bus, the driver should be crossing all the kids. The [driver is] basically the stop signal at that time because they’re crossing the kids and stopping the traffic.”
West says many times, their bus drivers report others try to pass them to avoid getting stuck behind a stopped school bus.
“The public really needs to be aware that if they see a school bus, just slow down. If they see any lights flashing, be aware and stop for those red lights.”
If anyone is caught passing a stop arm — they could be fined $150. Harlem School District officials say that fine may not be enough.
“Where if you park in a handicapped spot it’s a $250 fine. The fine isn’t there. No points off a license. Something should happen there where it should be a worse fine than what it is.”
West says although they train their bus drivers throughout the year, it’s ultimately up to motorists to be fully attentive when they get behind the wheel. He adds waiting those sixty seconds behind a bus could save a child’s life.
“It’s definitely up to the adults to make the stop. If the stop arm is out, make the stop. That’s the most important thing. If you see a school bus, just know there’s going to be kids around it.”
Harlem Transportation says it will be doing a bus safety refresher with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department on November 9th.