Recent community conversations in the Windham and Raymond areas have included concerns regarding stopping for a school bus while the red lights are flashing. There have been a few incidents caught on video by concerned parents that shows vehicles continuing, and often speeding, through a stopped bus as it is either picking up or dropping off a student.
According to Maine State law, “It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus with red lights flashing on school property, on any undivided highway or parking area in Maine. If you are approaching a stopped school bus from either direction, with its red lights flashing, you must bring your vehicle to a complete stop in front or rear of the school bus and wait while children are getting on or off the bus.
You must not proceed until the bus resumes motion or until signaled by the school bus driver to do so. The operator of a vehicle on a way separated by curbing or other physical barrier need not stop on meeting or passing a school bus if traveling in a lane separated by the barrier from the lane in which that operator is traveling.”
Although buses are designed for safety and other vehicles must adhere to the state law, student riders can do a lot to make their bus trips even safer and preventing injury.
· Stand only in the designated school bus stop. Always stand on the sidewalk, lawn or curb where the school bus stop is located. Stay away from the street because traffic in the morning and the afternoon can be very busy and hectic.
· Arrive at the stop early. Rushing to the bus stop may cause you to make errors in judgment, including running in traffic to catch the bus. Leave early so you have ample time to catch the bus and obey all traffic laws.
· Only board and exit the bus when it is safe. Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before boarding or exiting. The driver will engage the stop sign and put on the flashing red lights. Move around the bus only when it is stopped.
· Keep the aisles clear. Stay out of the aisle when the bus is in motion and store backpacks on your lap or under your seat so they are not tripping hazards.
· Use seat restraints. Use seat restraints when available on the school bus. While not every school bus has seatbelts, many now do.
· Stay in your seat. Remain in your seat while the bus is in motion. Keep your hands inside of the windows. Do not get up to engage with other riders.
·Keep a good distance between you and the bus. Exit the bus and cross in front where the driver can see you. If you cannot see the driver, he or she cannot see you. Check for safety signals from the driver to proceed when traffic has stopped. Always walk, never run, around a bus.
· Do not goof off. When on the bus, always behave so that you can hear any safety instructions and be aware of your surroundings. Behaving also means one less distraction for drivers.
School bus passengers can make their rides to school even safer by playing it smart.
Let’s all work together, keeping in mind the safety of our children.