David Crouthamel: Please be patient; we’re transporting our future
I drive a school bus.
The holidays are over and children are back in school, so now is a good time to examine the status of school buses sharing our roads.
First, understand that every law and regulation pertaining to operating a school bus is designed with one paramount thought … the safety of children. These laws and regulations are enacted by the State Legislature, through the Department of Education and are enforced by the California Highway Patrol. School bus stops are chosen by the District School Supervisor and inspected and approved by the Highway Patrol. School buses cannot make stops at the whim of the driver.
Here are some things you should know to safely share the roads with school buses:
If you see a school bus coming toward you at an intersection, and you are deciding if you can make it out first, here’s why playing “chicken” with a bus is not a good idea. A large school bus weighs eight tons, with an extra 3,000 pounds or so when loaded with children. Traveling at 40 mph, the bus is covering almost 60 feet per second.
Newton’s first law of physics states that an object in a state of motion tends to remain in motion unless an equal, or greater, external force is applied to it. In this case that force is the braking system. The distance the bus will travel in the time it takes the driver to perceive the hazard and move a foot to the brake pedal is another 44 feet, (the length of the bus). The bus will still travel 80 feet before coming to a stop, totaling 125 feet, or more than one-third the length of a football field. That is in good weather on dry roads.
Think about that when you’re tempted to play “beat the bus.”
School buses are expressly forbidden to proceed through a red light, including making a right turn at a red light. No amount of flashing your lights, tooting your horn or waving your fingers about will convince the driver into proceeding through that red light. This might be a good time to practice a little seated meditation.
The number one problem we bus drivers face is at school bus stops. The procedure is as follows: When approaching a bus stop, the driver begins to slow and turns on the flashing amber lights on the top front and back of the bus. These amber lights signal the intent of the driver to stop, at which time the driver will engage the flashing RED lights. The flashing amber lights do not mean that as many cars as possible can race around the bus before the red lights, come on!
The flashing red lights will be engaged by the driver and all cars moving in both directions must stop. Children are unpredictable and can begin moving toward the bus without heeding traffic. Even emergency vehicles when answering calls are prohibited from passing a school bus when its red lights are flashing. If a fire engine or ambulance on a call cannot pass a school bus, how much less can an ordinary driver do so? More seated meditation is called for.
School buses operate on a tight schedule. Altering your drive time by 15 minutes earlier or later will probably avoid the bus altogether.
If you won’t stop for the safety of children or because the law demands it, then know that according to California Vehicle Code #22452, your car is required to remain stopped as long as the red lights flash. Failure to stop can earn a fine of $1,000. And (not or) a license suspension of one year! Drivers can and do record license plate numbers and report offenders.
A little patience, a little courtesy, and together we can guarantee our children’s safe travel to and from school.
David Crouthamel is a semi-retired farrier and current school bus driver residing in the Smartsville area.
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