Tuesday, 18 June 2024

School buses get back on the road again this week

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The message should be clear to anyone ... STOP! Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

LAKE COUNTY Attention motorists: Be on the lookout for several very large, bright yellow vehicles once again crisscrossing our city streets and country roads starting this week.


On Tuesday, all of Lake County's schools will be open for business and dozens of school buses will be back to work.

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The buses will roll out of bus barns early in the morning from every school district and for the next 180 school days the drivers, transportation managers and the California Highway Patrol want to remind motorists of the hazards as well as the consequences of failing to abide by the laws regarding school bus safety.

 

The most common traffic violation relating to school buses is the failure to stop for a school bus while it is stopped for loading or unloading passengers, according to CHP Officer Mike Humble, who oversees the local CHP school bus driver program.


In order to put greater focus on traffic laws relating to school bus safety, Humble said new regulations have been implemented for both school bus drivers and the general driving public.


In the past, bus operators were required to begin flashing the red lights on the bus only when the bus was not in motion, said David Norris, director of transportation for Lakeport Unified School District.


These days state law requires each driver to activate a set of amber lights at least 200 feet from the next intended bus stop, thereby warning motorists of the bus's intention to stop, Norris added.


Once stopped, and before the doors open, the flashing red lights will indicate that all vehicles traveling in all directions must come to a full and complete stop, Norris explained.

 

Failure to stop puts the children as well as the bus driver in danger of injury, said Humble.


Though the numbers vary by district, roughly 35 percent of the county's students and their parents rely on these buses to get to and from school safely, according to information provided by local school districts.


The drivers are well trained and continually tested, said Humble.


The buses are likewise inspected frequently and must be maintained to very high standards, with safety equipments updated regularly, according to Norris. At a district level, he added, buses also go through annual safety checks.


That leaves the average motorist the one uncontrollable variable in the school bus safety equation. As a result CHP and county transportation officials ask that motorists familiarize themselves with bus stop locations whenever possible.


Officials indicate the while the problem occurs throughout the county the most active locations for bus stop violations occur in areas such as downtown Lakeport, where the roadway offers a middle two-way turn lane. Many drivers believe this allows them an opportunity to pass the bus safely.


Drivers also should be on the lookout for students approaching the bus stops as well as those actually loading and unloading, said Humble.


Other factors that every driver should consider are tailgating, stopping short and trying to beat the flashing lights by accelerating around a bus before it comes to a full stop, said Humble.


Whether you're traveling on busy Highway 20 or in the hills of Nice, downtown Lakeport or the main drag of Middletown, patience and awareness of your surroundings is paramount, said Humble.


The penalties for failing to stop can be steep. If convicted of violating section 22454 of the California Vehicle Code, a motorist can count on a fine of $150 for the first offense. A second offense will bring a fine of between $500 and $1000. Further violations can result in a suspension of driving privileges for one year.

 

It's the average motorist's responsibility to adhere to regulations and the common sense rules of the road. Bus-related injuries are rare in Lake County, thanks to the diligent work of all the transportation professionals responsible for so many lives.

 

 

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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