The new school year has begun and we, as drivers, need a little refreshing, even though we don't think we do. We haven't seen school buses for nearly three months and we haven't needed to slow for school zones since June. Now it's time to pay strict attention to our driving.
Nearly every driver knows that it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus with red lights flashing, no matter what state you are driving in, including Canada. However, as incredible as it may seem, an estimated 50,000 motorists illegally pass New York State school buses every day. Every time a stopped school bus is passed while children are loading and unloading puts them at risk. This increased risk in the past has resulted in injury and the death of our children, our most precious cargo.
Ultimately, efforts to increase public awareness and education can reduce this dangerous driving behavior and help us reach our common goal: safe transportation of our children to and from school and school activities. The law says:
It is illegal - and very dangerous - to pass a stopped school bus when the large red lights located on top of the bus are flashing. Flashing lights mean the bus is picking up or discharging students.
You must stop whether you are approaching the school bus from the front or overtaking it from the rear. You should stop at least 20 feet from the bus.
In New York state, you must always stop for red flashing lights, even on divided and multilane highways and on school grounds, including school parking lots.
Fines for illegally passing a school bus range from $250 to $1,000, plus surcharges, and can include jail time from 30 to 180 days.
Usually the street in front of a school is posted with a reduced speed limit. It may have flashing yellow beacons or just a regulatory sign with the lower speed limit. If it has flashing beacons, the reduced speed limit applies when the beacons are flashing. If it has a reduced speed limit sign only along with a yellow "School Zone" sign attached, the reduced speed applies to the hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on school days.
School also means students walking and crossing guards. Crossing guards have the authority to stop all traffic to assist students to cross the street. It may inconvenience you to do so, but just consider how tragic it will be if you hit a child,
Another area that demands extra care is the area around our schools. There will be increased traffic with school buses and parents dropping off or picking up students as well as large numbers of children on foot. The Franklin County Traffic Safety Board implores you to use extra caution when school children are present. To do anything else could be tragic.
For more articles and information on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board web site at: www.franklincony.org/ and use the department pull-down menu to find the Traffic Safety Board.
Dave Werner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.