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School Bus Safety Week spreads awareness

The two biggest threats to school bus safety are budget cuts and motorists passing stopped school buses, said Joe Dennis, transportation director for Chilton County Schools.

In the wake of statewide proration, the system has not been able to purchase any new buses this year. But that doesn’t lessen the demands brought on by transporting 4,550 students each day.

Each of the school district’s 105 buses — which collectively travel more than 400,000 miles each year — must be inspected every 20 days by a certified mechanic.

“When tires and brakes wear out, the state mandates that they be replaced,” Dennis said. “That’s not something you can stop doing because of proration.”

Aside from equipment reliability is public awareness. This is a primary goal of National School Bus Safety Week, which is observed Oct. 19-23.

“We are asking local citizens to help us maintain or even improve our safety record,” Superintendent Keith Moore said. “Our dedicated school bus drivers are doing a great job, but they need the cooperation of other motorists.”

One of the most common driver complaints, Moore said, is that other motorists frequently violate the school bus stop law.

Children are most vulnerable while buses are loading or unloading, especially between 6:15-7:15 a.m. and 3-4 p.m.

“Motorists are required to stop for stopped school buses that are displaying flashing red lights and a stop arm,” Moore said. “Sometimes, the drivers are not fully aware and pass a stopped school bus. This is a very dangerous situation for children, especially the younger ones who may not be watching traffic as closely as they should.”

A prime example is a recent crash on County Road 37 in which a motorist’s vehicle struck a stopped school bus. While no injuries were reported, students were evaluated both on site and upon arriving at school.

Dennis leaves motorists with a final warning, “When you see that school bus, you need to wake up and pay attention.”