Editorial: Drivers: watch those school buses

Daily Mail Education Reporter Samuel Speciale reported Wednesday on an alarming statistic: about 500 West Virginia motorists illegally pass school buses each day.

Five hundred each day! Spread over a 180-day school year, that’s 90,000 possibilities that a child somewhere in West Virginia is at significant risk of getting hit by a car because the driver was either intentionally not following the law or simply not paying attention.

Not surprisingly, the problem is exacerbated by negligent motorists who use their cellphones while driving, even though use of a handheld device by a driver in a moving vehicle was outlawed by the Legislature in 2012.

While a Kanawha County school bus garage manager believes magistrates treat the charge lightly, Capt. Sean Crozier said the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department treats them seriously.

“We practice zero tolerance,” Crosier said. “It’s a huge safety issue.”

Here’s a refresher for those who might not know the rules, according to AAA’s Digest of Motor Laws.

“The driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus that has stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging school children, must stop the vehicle before reaching the school bus when the school bus is displaying flashing warning signal lights, and must not proceed until the school bus resumes motion, is signaled by the school bus driver to proceed, or the visual signals are no longer actuated.”

It’s pretty simple actually. Passing cars must stop for a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading kids. Flashing lights and a flashing stop sign on the bus brightly proclaim the order.

And for those adults whose parents drove them to school very day, a school bus is a big long yellow vehicle with the words SCHOOL BUS emblaszed on the front, back and sides.

Drivers: Put your phones down and watch the road, particularly when along bus routes are school zones.

Parents of younger drivers: Be sure your kids know the rules.

Division of Motor Vehicles: Use some of that federal money for safety advertisements to create school bus and school zone driving instruction ads.

West Virginia has 281,000 kids in public schools. We need every one of them to arrive at school and return home safely each day.

School has started in some counties and will start Monday in Kanawha. Be safe out there.

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