Schools employee spearheads bus safety campaign

Published 4:59 pm Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cars on Highway 31 in Clanton come to a stop as a Chilton County school bus stops to let children off Tuesday afternoon.

Cars on Highway 31 in Clanton come to a stop, as required by law, as a Chilton County school bus stops to let children off Tuesday afternoon.

A Chilton County Schools employee is helping spearhead a statewide campaign to raise awareness of school bus safety and laws related to passing stopped school buses.

Chris Johnson, a local school bus driver and instructor, wants to put a stop to people breaking Alabama’s school bus stop law.

“It’s just unacceptable,” Johnson said. “People need to realize it’s a problem.”

The law was enacted eight years ago and states drivers approaching a school bus that is stopped to receive or discharge children on a highway, roadway, school property or private road must come to a complete stop before reaching the school bus from any direction.

Even so, reports from local school bus drivers and law enforcement officers indicate that drivers still pass stopped school buses illegally on a regular basis.

Johnson has been instrumental lately in spearheading a media campaign to educate people on the law, created to help protect the lives of children who ride on school buses.

Johnson started the campaign after watching a video during bus training this summer from a West Virginia school bus’ forward-facing dashboard camera.

The video is used in bus driver training across the country and shows an incident in which a car illegally passes a stopped school bus and narrowly avoids hitting a child walking across the road after getting off the bus.

“The video hit me,” Johnson said. “It hit me that I can help do something about this. The general public needs to know we’re supposed to stop.”

Johnson teaches electronics at LeCroy Career Technical Center and oversees radio stations in Chilton County—including WSMX 98.3 FM that broadcasts from the center—and other stations around the state.

As a long-time broadcaster, Johnson said his first thought was to notify the public via radio broadcasts.

He approached the Alabama Broadcasters Association at a convention Aug. 16 about issuing a public service announcement regarding the school bus stop law.

“I got an excellent response, and I knew I would,” Johnson said. “As broadcasters, we’re charged to deal with public issues and answers, and this is definitely a public issue.”