As students return to school, school buses will be out again every morning and afternoon, and local officials urge you to remember to keep student safety in mind while driving.
Drivers should be careful around buses and “look at the lights at the back of the bus,” said Traci Tobler, transportation manager for the Marysville School District.
“If they’re working at all, that means the bus is getting ready to or in the process of unloading and loading students,” she said.
Flashing yellow lights mean that the bus is getting ready to stop and red means children are getting on or off the bus, said Tobler.
Parents can also encourage their kids to keep safe while walking around the bus to go to school or to go home.
“Students should make eye contact with the bus drivers while walking around the bus,” said Tobler.
That will help the bus driver be aware of where the kids around the bus are, she said.
The Lakewood School District also encourages students to help out the bus driver as well, said Sheri Sandquist, transportation supervisor for the Lakewood School District.
“It can get very distracting for the bus driver,” she said, and the more students that are facing forward in their seats and using their “classroom voices” to talk, the better the bus driver will be able to drive.
“We want to be sure that our bus drivers are focused on the road because problems can happen when they have to split their focus on the kids they’re driving,” said Sandquist.
Drivers should also remember the rules of the stop paddle that school buses put out when dropping off or picking up students.
Sandquist said that the stop paddle is mainly about the lane the bus is in and the lane directly next to it.
“If we are on a two lane road, that means both directions of traffic have to stop,” she said.
“If it is three or more lanes, we can only control the lane next to us,” she said. Which means that the other direction of traffic doesn’t have to stop on a four lane road.
Last year was the first full year that the Marysville School District used cameras installed onto their buses which were meant to catch drivers breaking the law.
In total, 531 citations were issued and the district received $42,793 last school year, according to Emily Wicks, coordinator of communications at the district.
Ticket revenue from the program goes partially to courts to handle the cases and partially to the school district, which must spend the funds on safety and security measures.
“From the driver’s perspective, they are appreciating the cameras,” said Tobler.
Before, getting the license plate of a driver running the stop paddle was the responsibility of the bus driver, she said.
“They don’t have to concentrate on getting the information of cars that break the law,” said Tobler, “so they can stay more focused on the safety of the kids and their attention isn’t split or distracted.”