For chil­dren’s sake, pay at­ten­tion to buses

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

School has been back in ses­sion for sev­eral weeks now, and those big yel­low buses are back on Charles County roads ev­ery week­day trans­port­ing stu­dents to and from school.

That also inevitably means there are in­con­ve­nienced, of­ten im­pa­tient com­muters mak­ing risky moves be­hind the wheel just to avoid hav­ing to stop and wait a few min­utes for a bus to pick up or drop off chil­dren.

That should never be. And the sta­tis­tics say Charles County driv­ers could be bet­ter at ad­her­ing to the rules of the road when it comes to their en­coun­ters with school buses.

This year’s an­nual Mary­land State De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion-spon­sored one-day sur­vey showed a dis­turb­ing uptick in the num­ber of traf­fic vi­o­la­tions re­ported by school bus driv­ers in the county. The sur­vey, held statewide one day last April, recorded 178 vi­o­la­tions in Charles County. That num­ber was up from 155 in 2015.

Say what you will about the sta­tis­ti­cal va­lid­ity of a one-day sam­pling. On a given day there could be more traf­fic, weather lim­i­ta­tions and other fac­tors. But since the sur­vey is statewide, it of­fers a snap­shot of traf­fic safety at a given time.

And over­all, that snap­shot is not flat­ter­ing.

The most re­cent sur­vey showed a jump in vi­o­la­tions across Mary­land as a whole — the first in the six years they’ve been con­ducted — from 2,795 recorded vi­o­la­tions in 2015 to 4,326 in 2016. Over­all, the state re­ported, 72 per­cent of school bus driv­ers took part.

One of our neigh­bor­ing coun­ties, St. Mary’s County, saw its bus driv­ers record 65 vi­o­la­tions this year, up from 36 in 2015.

Calvert, on the other hand, saw a steady im­prove­ment in com­pli­ance. That county’s bus driv­ers noted only 20 driver vi­o­la­tions this past April, down from 39 last year and 46 in 2014.

Michael Heim, Charles County Pub­lic Schools as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of sup­port­ing ser­vices, said he was un­sure as to why there is an in­crease in Charles County.

“As more and more peo­ple move into the county, we’ve seen an in­crease in the amount of traf­fic. Charles County has a large com­muter pop­u­la­tion, and many of the ve­hi­cles are on the road at the same time as our buses,” Heim said. “Part of it could be dis­tracted driv­ers, more peo­ple who are tex­ting or us­ing cell phones while driv­ing.” Heim said motorists need to be mind­ful of school buses on the roads, and he told them to “please stop” when the red lights come on, as state law de­mands. Thomp­son said driv­ers need to slow down when the school bus lights be­gin to flash yel­low and com­pletely stop once those lights turn red.

So for the sake of chil­dren, pay at­ten­tion, and stop when the bus stops.

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