Meeting the School Bus, Safely

September 14, 1993

Schools are back in session and those familiar yellow buses are back on the road. Motorists need to be reminded that when a school bus stops with flashing red lights, vehicles in both directions must fully stop until the lights are extinguished.

It's state law, with a penalty of two points on the driving record and a $260 fine for violators. But it should also be a matter of common sense: those flashing lights mean youngsters are getting on or off the bus, and often crossing the road to and from the bus stop.

State troopers in Carroll County set out to strictly enforce that law the first week of school. To their pleasant surprise, they found that drivers were exceptionally obedient to the law, which requires that they stop 20 feet from the front or rear of the school bus. Only one violator was cited in three days of Project Good Guy, conducted by state police along county school bus routes. One trooper using a two-way radio rode on a bus, his partner followed that bus in a patrol car. In fact, county school bus drivers say it is rare for a motorist to disobey this particular law, even when other traffic violations appear numerous.

The first days of school, however, also brought a reminder to bus drivers of their responsibility. A child at the new Runnymede Elementary Annex (at the former Taneytown Elementary) got on the wrong bus and told the first-time bus driver so. Instead of returning the girl to the school, as county school procedures require, the driver let the child off at a convenience store. The child insisted that store was near her home and she knew how to get there. The child's information was correct, but the driver's response was not and he was reprimanded.

School officials are also looking into another case of a Manchester Elementary kindergartner who may have fallen asleep on his school bus on the way home, and was later discovered by an adult acquaintance outside a grocery store. Fortunately, he was returned home safely, but details in that case remained unsettled and unsettling.

A child's vision of where he lives and how far it is from a known landmark can be quite different from reality. The son of Carroll's elementary schools director had a similar experience his first day at kindergarten last week. The boy missed his home stop, then told the driver to leave him at a fire station that was quite distant from his house. That driver knew better: The boy was returned to the school for parent pick-up.

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