Assistant Managing Editor
With many area students returning to school next week, area law enforcement officers are reminding motorists to watch for buses and children waiting for them.
Rural areas are always potential problem areas, especially on state routes, where speeds tend to be higher and stopping distances are increased, said Lt. Scott Carrico, commander of the Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
He said Ohio 501 and Ohio 198 are to be a focus throughout the month of August until after school starts.
“With the start of a new year, there are first time students on buses and some confusion exists,” Carrico said. “We want to take every possible precaution to keep our kids safe both at school and when riding the bus or walking to or from school.”
He said local bus drivers do an outstanding job of going over with children the proper procedure of how to cross, which is covered at the beginning of each year, and students usually follow the directions of their bus drivers.
While Carrico said they haven’t seen a great deal of school involved crashes in the area, motorists should be reminded that stopping is required and not an option.
“When the lights come on regardless, motorists need to come to a complete stop, period,” Carrico said. “It only takes a very short amount of time for a child to exit the bus and cross the roadway.”
He said motorists need to plan ahead and allow extra time when traveling through an area that has school bus stops and that motorists backing out of driveways need to watch for children walking on the sidewalk.
Motorists need to pay attention and be alert for stopped school busses, OSHP spokesperson Lt. Anne Ralston said.
She said motorists also should exercise patience and never pass a stopped school bus.
“Although drivers of all vehicles are required to stop for a school bus when it is stopped to load or unload passengers, children should not rely on them to do so,” OSHP Superintendent Col. Paul Pride said. “Children exiting the bus should always stop and look both ways before crossing the street and remain alert to any sudden traffic changes.”
Motorists approaching a stopped school bus from either direction are required to stop at least 10 feet back from buses displaying red flashing lights and an extended stop arm.
From 2010 to 2012, statewide, 4,176 motorists were cited for failing to stop for a school bus when it was loading or unloading children.