Stopped school buses are easy to spot
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.