For children’s sake, pay attention to buses
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.