Speeding is not the only way bus drivers put students at risk

October 31, 2012

Approximately two weeks ago, while waiting in the queue of cars of parents and family members at dismissal time in front of St. John's Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City, I was amazed and angered by what transpired.

With the dismissal of students at 3:15 p.m., and the daily rush of cars at the loop to pick up the kids, the entrance to the parking lot backs up, and traffic on St. John's Lane comes to a stop. As I awaited to turn left in to the parking lot, several vehicles, followed by two school buses, crossed the double yellow center line, to drive around the back up in the wrong lane. After pulling in to the parking lot, I telephoned the wonderful front office of the school and the county police to let them know what had just transpired. While the school staff immediately took the information and began looking in to the situation, the Howard County police promptly sent a patrol car to the school.

After verifying the school bus numbers with another parent, (there was some confusion, and number crossing, as neither one of us believed what had just happened), the officer was able to figure out that these buses had just left the middle school, and I received a very courteous follow-up call within 30 minutes of the incident, verifying the same, from the officer. I was informed that the school bus company was notified of the incident, and that they were looking in to the situation as well.

The story as described above is not the first time this has happened; as I (and other parents) have seen passenger cars cross the double yellow in the past, I've notified the county police, and they're always very responsive. However, this was the first instance in which I witnessed school buses crossing the double yellow line.

After reading the Baltimore Sun on Sunday, I was amazed and angered to learn of speeding violations of buses in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, and I felt compelled to write this letter, as I completely understand that the bus drivers are human, and mistakes do happen. I also know that the actions of a few bus drivers should not tarnish the reputation and service of the many dedicated, compassionate, thoughtful, patient, brave, rule following and safe bus drivers. I am positive that the majority of bus drivers fit into this latter category, and for that, untold numbers of families are grateful that their children are transported to and from school safely, every day, by these public servants.

However, intentionally crossing a double yellow line to avoid a minor back-up is not a mistake. It is a decision that was made that potentially jeopardized the lives of those students not only on the bus, but those that might be "accidentally" hit head on by the wrong-side of the road driver!

I appreciate the industry's efforts toward utilizing newer safety technologies that are described in the letter to the editor by the Maryland School Bus Contractors Association ("School bus operators committed to safety, Oct. 28), but, with all due respect, all the hardware, devices and sensors won't mean a thing if the driver makes that split second bad decision, is "in a hurry" or knowingly disregards basic rules of the road.

Jason Bashura, Ellicott City

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