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Bus drivers: Motorists not stopping PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 October 2017 11:34


• Leader & Times

School bus drivers are an important part of school districts in more ways than simply transporting students to and from school, also being responsible for making sure they get to the bus safely. 

Recently, some concerns were raised regarding vehicles passing school buses while the stop arm is out, which is against the law. 

“Stop arms have always been an issue as far as people running them,” USD 480 Director of Transportation Stacey Johnson said. “I’m like everyone else, I can get in a hurry with my day-to-day tasks and sometimes you don’t notice that stop arm until you’ve already passed it and then you’re thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I think I just ran the stop arm!’ It’s just like a stop sign, it does happen and when it does happen, hopefully nothing bad comes from it, but there are laws in place to keep us from doing that. It’s become enough of an issue that the State of Kansas did a survey with a number of school districts participating, we were one of them and had nine buses. During that, we did a survey of how many times our stop arms got run by cars and whether it was coming toward the bus or from the rear of the bus. They compiled all those numbers and then got that information out to all the school districts and in looking at all that afterward, we had several per day that occurred.”

“What’s got me worried is we don’t really have any enforcement and I’m just wondering if some little one is going to have to give his life before something really gets done. I don’t think it’s right,” USD 480 bus driver David Falke said at a recent Liberal City Commission meeting. “I think we need to do something.”

Fellow USD 480 bus driver Darlene Meier, who has been a driver for 32 years, said she has also had some issues with vehicles passing her while stopped. 

“Before we even get to the stop, we have our damper lights on and flashing and then the bus itself is a big yellow vehicle coming down the way, so you ought to be able to see it coming. Personally, I’m so used to doing it that when I’m out of town, I see the buses, they stick out like a sore thumb,” Meier said. “Usually, it’s about two or three sometimes. Those cars coming off Kansas Avenue coming west, there’s a house right there on the alley and a lot of people aren’t used to seeing a bus there so they pass and just go on their merry way.”

Overall, it was agreed drivers need to pay more attention to school bus traffic. 

“Our main concern is we always try to get off of the roadway when we’re picking students up. But we have four or five buses here we use for our door-to-door routes, where we actually pick the students up at their houses and drop them off at the door of the school and vice versa at the end of the day,” Johnson said. “That can be a problem when we can’t get off the roadway in those situations but we always make sure to have the flashing red arm out and the lights going on the back of the bus. Every day, our drivers do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection of their buses to make sure the red flashing lights are working in the front and rear of the bus and when they stick the stop arm out, the lights are working on that too.”

“Drivers should get off their cell phones, that’s one thing I would say,” Meier added. “People aren’t as observant as they used to be, say, 30 years ago and the cell phones are somewhat a problem. And there’s also situations where their thoughts are somewhere else or they’re talking to a passenger in their car or just have a lot of things going on, so they’re not being as observant. And sometimes if I’m coming to a neighborhood and I know someone’s behind me, I’ll let them go around before I let my pick-up know I’m there or put the stop sign out. It’s not fair to them to have to slam on their brakes especially if I end up having to wait on someone I’m picking up.”

Recently, Johnson said, USD 480 transportation staff has been working with the Liberal Police Department to have an officer on the buses every once in a while and again emphasized the importance of drivers paying attention. 

“We’re also going to come up with some sheets for the bus drivers to fill out so they can write down what vehicles passed them, the tag number if they can get it, the colors and makes and models of those vehicles, all that,” Johnson said. “Then we can give those to law enforcement and they can handle it from there. If you’re following a school bus or meeting a school bus, always be prepared and slow down. If you’re coming up on a school bus, just slow down and make sure everything is okay, like is the stop arm out, are the lights flashing. Never try and speed up to beat the stop arm. Just be aware of when you see a school bus, there’s a high possibility, especially if it’s in a residential area, it’s going to be stopping on that street to either pick up or drop off children.”

Overall, the main factor is safety, Johnson said. 

“As long as people take their time and notice their surroundings, that helps a lot,” Johnson said. “Everyone is so busy with their day-to-day lives, they get in a hurry and miss some things going on around them. It’s 100 percent about the students, we want them to be safe and there’s a reason we have the arms on the buses.”

For those who have any questions or concerns, Johnson said they are encouraged to contact the USD 480 transportation department at 604-1090. 

“I always encourage people, if they have questions, they can call out here and talk to us and ask. If they see something they think isn’t right, like if there’s a light out on a bus or if they see a driver doesn’t have the arm out but should have it out, I encourage them to get ahold of me and talk to me so we can get it handled and talk about it. We’re all human, we make mistakes, we forget sometimes. We work really hard not to, but I need to know about any of those things going on.”




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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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