Driver’s Ed. basics say that all vehicles traveling in both directions must stop at least 10 feet away when a school bus has their red lights flashing and stop arm extended. Parents are saying, though, that motorists either don’t know this, or they don’t care.
Now, the Erie School District doesn’t use the traditional yellow school buses you may be thinking of. Instead, they use EMTA buses. You know that a bus has children in it if you see the red stop sign flashing.
This morning, an ‘Operation Safe Stop’ was conducted, with police motorcycles trailing school buses, looking for violators; to which there were none this time. Chief Don Dacus telling us, “Really, that’s just to heighten the awareness for motorists when school buses are loading and off-loading… With the number of distractions on the roads these days, we just want to bring it to the forefront of people’s minds that school season is still underway and just to pay attention for the buses.”
Adults need to play their part to keep kids safe. Dacus says, “Young children are not always alert or aware of their surroundings so we really rely on the adults to make sure that they are alert and aware at the time of what they’re doing when they operate their cars.”
While on general patrol, officers are told to watch for violators of the school bus safety laws, periodically conduct routine checks of bus routes and monitor school zones in the mornings and after school to ensure all the kids are being safe coming to and from school. Transportation was significantly affected by the consolidation and route changes that took place this year.
The Erie School District has 2700 students riding the school buses or about a quarter of the student population. Superintendent Brian Polito agrees that safety is the number one concern. With that in mind, they will record a video on school bus safety. How to enter and exit the bus, how to behave properly, among other safety tips. Polito says, “The exciting thing about this is we’re able to film it and share it with all of our students across the district so everybody gets this little lesson on how to behave on the school bus.”
Polito also saying transportation was a challenge this year, with all of the changes in the district. “There’s still a couple areas… where we’re working on that overcrowding, but again, the EMTA has been very cooperative and has been willing to sit down and work with us on these issues.”
Megan Kurtnak, Mother, says unsafe driving happens every day when she drops off or picks up her daughter, Riley, from her bus stop. They live on a dead-end road in Harborcreek, so Riley’s bus has to stop on the corner of a busy intersection; Buffalo Road and Forbes Street.
And, Bus Driver Cindy says, “Buffalo road, it’s a four-lane road, there’s no physical barrier, so you have to stop on both sides.” There’s only one circumstance in which cars do not need to stop for a school bus. “If there’s a physical barrier between the lanes, then they do not have to stop, if it’s the opposite side of the road.”
The speed limit on Buffalo Road is 40. There is no doubt many cars exceed it, but they’re given the warning to slow down. Cindy says, “once the yellow lights come on, it’s just like a stop light, they want you to slow down and prepare for the red light to come on.”
Megan says the bus driver starts her yellow lights nearly 50 yards from where she will ultimately stop to drop Megan’s daughter off, which warns cars to slow down. Bus drivers are encouraged to report these violations to law enforcement if they’re able to get the license plate numbers.
Megan tells us, though, that it’s “very difficult on this road becuase they’re going that way… Pennsylvania doesn’t have front license plates numbers and even if they caught it on video… you’re going to get… well, not much.” So, she simply wants to stress, “Please be careful… these are our children…”
The State Police tell us if a person is convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law they could get a $250 fine, five points on their driving record and a 60-day mandatory license suspension. Definitely serious charges.