Buses back on back roadsIt’s been about three months since drivers regularly saw school buses on Goodhue County’s roads. But with classes back in session this week, the big yellow vehicles are again a common sight.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
It’s been about three months since drivers regularly saw school buses on Goodhue County’s roads. But with classes back in session this week, the big yellow vehicles are again a common sight.
“Just like when the motorcycles start every spring, we haven’t seen them for months, and we forget about it,” Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin said. “Drivers have to get back in the mindset that buses are back out.”
For drivers, the laws regarding school buses don’t change whether the bus is in the city or in the country, McNurlin said. When the red lights are flashing and the stop sign and arm are out, it’s illegal to pass the bus, and vehicles must stay at least 20 feet away and stopped until the red lights are turned off.
Violations are gross misdemeanors.
“It’s different from other traffic violations” which are usually petty misdemeanors, McNurlin said.
Before the bus comes to a full stop, the bus driver will activate the yellow flashing lights on the top of the bus. Just like a yellow traffic light, those flashing lights warn drivers to start slowing down.
Karl Hartman, location manager for the Red Wing First Student Inc. location, said bus drivers typically turn on the yellow lights about eight to 10 seconds before coming to a full stop.
However, in the country, those yellow lights — and the bus itself — can become hidden behind hills or curves, McNurlin said.
“Things as big as a bus, you wouldn’t think you’d miss, but when they’re hidden by the lay of the land…,” he said.
Before many of the “hidden” stops, there is a traffic sign warning drivers of the upcoming bus stop. But for people who drive the same routes every day, those signs can just blend into the scenery. That’s why it’s especially important for drivers to be alert at all times, McNurlin said.
The same goes for students waiting at bus stops, McNurlin said. In the country, many stops are located along highways where speed limits reach 50 or 55 mph.
“Drivers all try to make their best attempts to use due caution, but accidents do happen,” McNurlin said.
If possible, students should be supervised by an adult at bus stops until they are in second or third grade, McNurlin said. And, they shouldn’t horse around while they’re waiting either.
“Kids are kids, they’re distracted,” McNurlin said. “But any inadvertent move could cost them their life.”
In addition, students should wait as far off the road as possible until they see the bus coming. That means staying well away from ditches, which could be used as the right of way if a vehicle loses control.
“We just want to make people aware that it is the season,” McNurlin said. “We all have to shake back to reality quickly. Unfortunately, like everything, it takes a little bit to readjust.”