By the end of the month, all local schools will be in session, which means dozens of yellow school buses will be making their rounds throughout the county twice a day. It is important to remember the laws and regulations of the road when it comes to buses, not only to refrain from serious fines and penalties, but to keep children safe and out of danger.
School bus laws fall under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4511.75. The laws reflect many different aspects of bus and road safety and breaking these laws can result in fines up to $500 and a class seven suspension to the abuser’s driver’s license, which falls under a definite period of time not to exceed one year.
The rules are age-old, cut-and-dry, but drivers still receive citations for ignoring the laws.
The law states that buses included in the safety laws are those with school children, children attending a head start agency, and those attending programs offered by community board of mental health and county boards of developmental disabilities.
4511.75 starts off by listing the foundation of the law, which is to stop. Once a school bus has come to a complete stop, traffic from both direction is to cease motion and keep at least a ten foot buffer from the bus.
This is also required in places where a highway has been divided into four or more traffic lanes.
School buses pulling over to deal with students on a divided highway, or a highway with four or more traffic lanes, are required to stop on the side of the highway in which the student resides. The driver is then required to stay still until the student reaches a safe destination, either on or off the bus.
Each bus is required by law to be equipped with flashing amber and red visual signals, as well as an automatic stop warning sign, which shall be actuated by the driver when the vehicle has come to a complete stop and is preparing to receive or discharge students. At this point in time, all mentioned laws are required to be followed.
“Bus safety is a concern of ours every single day of every week that the kids are out there,” New Boston Superintendent Melinda Burnside said. “We now have three bus runs in the morning and three in the afternoon and our biggest concern is morning. People are more in a hurry in the morning and they don’t follow the bus stop as they should and drive past the buses.”
Burnside believes the morning rush of traffic to work often forgets children are surrounding these buses and could easily become hurt.
“Safety is our biggest concern, and the biggest thing for people to remember to watch our for are the red lights, because they mean kids are getting off and on the bus,” Burnside said. “It isn’t odd to see a kid go running off in a direction, not paying attention, and it only takes one driver who isn’t paying attention to cause a disaster.”
Burnside said that the ongoing roadwork through New Boston is also concern for the school. A discussion has been ongoing to determine if the buses will follow an alternate, safer route throughout the village.
“The bus drivers and myself have discussed the best, and safest, locations to drop off and pick up students if lanes are blocked off for roadwork, because there are certain areas that we may have to have a central meeting point where students meet the bus,” Burnside said.
No alternate routes have been officially planned for New Boston drivers at this time.
“The beginning of every new school year is always exciting, especially for those youngsters in grade school,” Sheriff Marty Donini said. “Traveling motorist need to take extra precaution during this time of the year and when driving near schools, do so as if you yourself have school-age children attending.”
Donini explained that the first months back to school can be rough, as drivers adjust to seeing the buses on the road again.
“When you go a few months with school buses off the road, it takes some time adjusting back to it,” Donini said. “We hope the motorists become more attentive to it and practice safe driving.”
Donini said that he and his staff take violators of school bus safety laws seriously and will track down offenders if necessary.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.