Stopped school buses are easy to spot

The Catoosa County News - - EDITORIALS & OPINION - COLUM­NIST I CHAR­LIE SEWELL

Decades ago, I mar­ried a school teacher, and our daugh­ters usu­ally rode to and from school with my wife. It was a big deal to them when we al­lowed our el­e­men­tary school daugh­ters to ride the school bus. It was usu­ally out of ne­ces­sity, but we never con­sid­ered the ad­van­tages.

It wasn’t vig­or­ous, but they were more ac­tive when they walked to the bus stop. It never crossed our mind that in­ter­act­ing with var­i­ous age stu­dents could be fun. We didn’t think about them build­ing self-as­sur­ance, self­es­teem or en­hanced so­cial skills. Our daugh­ters were in­de­pen­dent. Yet, rid­ing a school bus would re­quire them to se­lect the cor­rect bus, man­age books, man­age sup­plies, and it would have helped them with self-suf­fi­ciency.

My wife never men­tioned many neg­a­tive con­ver­sa­tions af­ter driv­ing the girls to and from school, how­ever, the thought of fam­ily ac­cord wasn’t on our radar. If we had al­lowed our daugh­ters to ride the school bus more, morn­ings might have been a little less stress­ful. Hav­ing said all of this, we took the school bus for granted.

In May, NBC News from New York re­ported that, “School buses are the most reg­u­lated ve­hi­cles on the road. Stu­dents are 70 times more likely to get to school safely aboard a bus than in a car.” How­ever, the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion says that on av­er­age, “Thirty-three school-age chil­dren die in school bus-re­lated crashes each year.”

So, what makes school buses so safe? It cer­tainly isn’t be­cause of the stu­dents. Years ago, when I rode a school bus home with a friend, talk­ing was a mur­mur, and stu­dents re­spected and minded the bus driver. A rel­a­tive, who cur­rently drives a school bus, told me things are dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent inside the big bird to­day.

School bus driv­ers do more than just drive the bus, they also mul­ti­task. Driv­ers carry pre­cious cargo, but they some­times deal with less than pre­cious stu­dents. It’s not like driv­ing a bus with young stu­dents isn’t dif­fi­cult enough, driv­ers watch traf­fic in both di­rec­tions be­fore mo­tion­ing stu­dents that it is safe to cross the road. Many driv­ers get items thrown at the back of their head, and many face rowdy stu­dents, fights, bul­lies, curs­ing, var­i­ous weapons, and vol­umes of noise.

The school buses re­mind me of large yel­low sub­marines on wheels, and the size and color make a dif­fer­ence in their safety. The color was cho­sen be­cause it at­tracts more at­ten­tion than any other color. It’s called Na­tional School Bus Glossy Yel­low, and it is re­quired by Fed­eral law.

One of the main rea­sons this color was cho­sen in 1939 is be­cause the black let­ter­ing on yel­low is much eas­ier for driv­ers to see in dark­ness. But even us­ing a huge yel­low moun­tain of a school bus doesn’t rule out tragedy. In Oc­to­ber of 2018, four Ful­ton County In­di­ana stu­dents were mowed down as they were try­ing to board their school bus. The twenty-four-year-old driver told author­i­ties she didn’t spot the school bus un­til it was too late. Sadly, three of the stu­dents were sib­lings, and trag­i­cally, they did not sur­vive.

Even be­fore day­light, how can any­one not see a brightly col­ored school bus stopped with brightly flash­ing red lights and re­flec­tive stop signs? Last year, a web­site called Ed­u­ca­tion, re­ported that a na­tional sur­vey in­di­cated, “On any given school day, more than 74,000 driv­ers in Amer­ica il­le­gally pass school buses stopped with red lights flash­ing and stop sign arms ex­tended.”

My bus driv­ing rel­a­tive re­cently told me that her own chil­dren reg­u­larly count as many as 25 cars that il­le­gally pass her stopped school bus each day. She said that the stop signs are out, and all the red lights are flash­ing, but many ve­hi­cles whiz by like her big yel­low bus is in­vis­i­ble.

We live in an era of faster is bet­ter. Many driv­ers see the yel­low school bus lights then reck­lessly stomp the ac­cel­er­a­tor to beat the forth­com­ing red stop sign. Some driv­ers don’t even care, and I guess I will never un­der­stand their phi­los­o­phy. A child’s life is a trea­sure, and a gift to our so­ci­ety. It’s OK to drive slowly if you want to en­joy the view, but a lot of driv­ers drive too fast and be­come the view.

A child hit by a car trav­el­ing 40 mph has a 70 per­cent chance of dy­ing. Slow­ing down and be­ing alert can save a child’s life. It’s a sim­ple con­cept, err on the side of cau­tion and pay at­ten­tion to stopped school buses.

Char­lie Sewell is the re­tired Pow­der Springs police chief.

Sewell

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