The days are getting shorter, the smell of fresh crayons permeates trips to the store and, somehow, it's time to start thinking about school! But that doesn't just apply to kiddos and parents. Did you know that it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing? As school buses fill the roads, it's incredibly important that all motorists help keep children safe.
So, as a driver, what can you do to make life safer for the kids around you?
To start with, pack a little extra time into your estimated morning drive.
Starting Monday, Aug. 19, school routes and school buses will return and, if your luck is like ours, they'll be slowing your commute down. (Believe us, we're heaving some heavy sighs as we hide the snooze buttons on our alarms, too.) Whether you have to navigate around school zones and closed streets or you happen to catch a rural school bus on its route for a stretch of highway, delays will most likely happen. Be ready for them.
The next step? Be patient. (This also isn't at the top of our "things-we-enjoy-doing list," but it matters.)
It's the beginning of the year, and whether kids are coming to school for the first time or just shaking off the summer, rules and new routines are probably still a little fuzzy. You may encounter a little Flash Gordon speeding down the driveway to the waiting bus he's almost missed or a dawdling preschooler who's still reluctant to leave mom and dad behind for the big yellow twinkle of transportation. When the red lights on a bus are flashing, practice your breathing techniques and wait. We're the adults and the individuals behind several tons of steel and force, so we're going to have to cultivate our patience. Someone did it for us once, after all!
Also, be aware.
Kids drop stuff, drawstrings on bags get caught in doors, and those fun and games at the bus stop can encroach on the street. Lots of little things can place our favorite munchkins in places they logically shouldn't be … or should have moved out of already. Children are unpredictable animals, so err on the side of caution - give the bus and its riders extra time and space, whether kiddos should still be in the vicinity or not.
Finally, violations of school bus safety laws carry hefty punishments.
In 2004, Isaac Bryan, an elementary school student in the Bryant School District, was killed by a driver who illegally passed a stopped school bus while it was unloading. To discourage similar negligence in the future, the Arkansas legislature passed Isaac's Law (Act 2128 of 2005), which has dramatically increased fines, penalties and punishment for passing a stopped school bus. Should a worst case scenario occur, you could kill a child and be charged with criminal negligence - not manslaughter.
We hate to end a blog post on such a negative note, but it's a fact worth considering. A few minutes of waiting in the morning are certainly not worth the safety of our smallest pedestrians or our freedoms. As you look forward to fall and prepare for next week, please take a little extra time to consider the students of Arkansas and get ready to build up your time management skills and patience!