In just a couple weeks, the bus garage on Indian Town Road will once again sit empty, as the more than 150 buses in the fleet will hit the roads of Sampson County as the start of another school year begins.
On Aug. 29, another school year begins, and the county’s 161 buses will hit the road. School and emergency officials are warning motorists and riders to be cautious when around school buses, and ensure bus safety at all times.
“Just as we do every year, we encourage our drivers and riders to follow all safety rules when buses are involved,” Herb Sanderson, bus garage director, said.
The school buses in Sampson County cover approximately 2 million miles per school year, or 11,000 miles a day. Thousands of children’s lives rest in the hands of the bus drivers, and Sanderson said it’s important for all motorists to follow bus safety.
According to state law, a motorist must stop and remain stopped when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passenger. The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.
“We encourage all motorists to obey the traffic laws and stop for the stop arm and school bus,” Sanderson added.
Last year, a new state law was implemented that required bus drivers to signal to students when it was safe to cross in front of the bus. According to Sanderson, both drivers and students adjusting to the change.
“Our drivers were very receptive to doing this,” Sanderson said. “Most of them had been informed about the new law and were on board with using the signal.”
For students who are riding the bus in the morning, they are asked to wait for the bus at least 12 feet away from traffic. Students should wait for the bus to stop and the stop arm is extended, before heading towards traffic. All students should look for traffic in both directions before crossing and students should remain at least 12 feet away from a bus at all times.
In the afternoon, the process is reversed, with drivers indicating when it is safe for students to cross in front of the bus back across to the side of the street they live on.
“We encourage all students to be on time at their stop, follow all safety rules on and off the bus and remain seated at all times while on the bus,” Sanderson said. “It’s important for parents and students to know the law.”
The local roads have been vacant of buses for the last two months, therefore Sanderson encourages drivers to begin adjusting their travel times to allow for the extra traffic.
“Pay attention to the buses and the drivers,” Sanderson urged. “With buses on the road, it may take you longer to get where you need to go. Allow extra time for trips so that you aren’t in a hurry.”
Sanderson says motorists should ask themselves three questions: “Is it legal?,” “Is it safe?,” or “Is it worthwhile?”
“First and foremost, you need to be patient,” Sanderson added. “Be prepared to stop and make sure you make the right decisions.”
In addition to bus safety, motorists should be aware of the state law for stopping for a bus. According to state law, motorists traveling on a two-lane roadway, a two-lane roadway with a center turning lane and a four-lane roadway without a median should stop in both directions when a school bus is stopped.
Motorists who are traveling on a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median and a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane do not have to stop when traveling in the opposite direction of the bus. All traffic following the bus must stop.
For more information, Sanderson visit www.ncbussafety.org. There are educational videos and materials teachers and parents can use to help children learn about safety on a bus.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.