Bus safety key this back-to-school season

Mari-Alice Jasper | Eagle Post

Christian County School District's Transportation Department employs about 100 drivers who transport about 7,000 students every school day. Annually, drivers travel more than two million miles serving safely transporting students to and from school.

Motorists traveling in Christian County can expect to see school busses on the road 6-8:30 a.m. and 2-4:30 p.m. weekdays once students head back to school Aug. 7.

Mike Brumley, Transportation director with Christian County School District, said all motorists are equally responsible for making riding school busses safe for children.

"Be vigilant and be aware of the bus when it stops," Brumley said. "It seems like no one wants to follow a school bus, so they will take crazy risks to get around the bus and every year, somewhere around the country there will be a child or two who will get hit because a vehicle tried to pass a bus' stop arm. It happens every year."

Under Kentucky law, passing a stopped school bus in either direction on a two-lane road when the bus' warning lights are on and the stop arm extended is illegal. The penalty for passing a stopped bus is up to a $200 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

The Transportation Department is tasked with ensuring all students arrive to school and are returned home safely every school day. The department's team of about 100 drivers travel more than two million miles annually in support of that mission, Brumley said.

Although the routes are designed so students do not have to cross the road to board the bus, sometimes it is inevitable, Brumley said.

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"The way our drivers train the children is that if they have to cross the road they don't move until the bus has stopped, the stop arm is out and the driver has checked to make sure the traffic has stopped. Then the driver will motion for the kids to cross the road," he said.

Students who do not have to cross the road to board the bus should wait six to eight feet from the curb, he said.

"We don't want them waiting right on the edge of the road," Brumley said. "Wait until the bus pulls up there, stops and then they should approach the bus."

Youth should be aware of their surroundings at bus stops to ensure safety, he said.

"Kids are going to kids, but we want them to be aware too," he said.

After boarding the bus, riders should find their seat, sit down and talk using an inside voice, so they aren't distracting the driver. Bus riders should not stand up, eat or drink during the ride, Brumley said.

All of the school bus rules will be listed on a boarding pass distributed to all bus riders within the first week of school. All boarding passes must be signed by a guardian, he said.

School bus rules are enforced to help reduce any distractions drivers might experience while on the road. Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers, Brumley said. In his 29 years of experience working with transportation departments across the Commonwealth, Brumley said most bus accidents are caused by distracted drivers.

"Maybe there was something going on at the back of the bus … anytime that driver is distracted, basically you've got a 40-foot vehicle with 65 kids on it, and you can't be safe if the driver is always having to look up in the mirror instead of what's going on in front of them," he said.

Brumley encouraged all students and parents to attend their school's open house because they can meet their bus driver at that time. Doing this can make the first day go more smoothly, he said.

However, if a family misses open house, the parent will still have the opportunity to speak with their bus driver during a phone call, he said.

"One or two days before school starts, we have all of the bus drivers make contact with every parent of every passenger on their bus," he said.

During the conversation, drivers will introduce themselves, inform the parent approximately what time they will arrive at their bus stop and field any questions from the parent, he said.

If a parent is not contacted by their bus driver by Monday, they should call the Transportation Department and speak with someone in the Routing Department, he said.

To be added to a route, parents must first complete school registration. Then they should wait 24 hours, call the Transportation Department and speak with someone from the Routing Department to ensure their child has been added to the transportation list.

To contact the Transportation Department, call 270-887-7099.

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