As island children return to school, we are asking that everyone take a moment to consider their safety as they wait for and board the school bus in the morning, or make their way home in the afternoon. The darkest days of winter may be behind us, but the early mornings and late afternoons are still dark. This can make it difficult to see, so it is extremely important to be extra careful when approaching a stopped or slowing bus, or even just driving in the early mornings when children may be making their way to the bus stop.
Remember, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped. This is true whether you are approaching the bus from behind – in the same lane – or approaching from the opposite direction in the other lane. You may not pass, even after the red lights stop flashing, until the bus actually starts moving again.
The best way to ensure that no children are put at risk is to slow down and prepare to stop when the yellow lights begin to flash and it becomes clear that the bus is approaching a stop. For added safety, it’s a good idea to pay extra attention and be very cautious whenever driving in the vicinity of a school bus.
Nationwide there is a growing problem with motorists who ignore the lights and stop paddle on school buses and this has led to a number of tragic accidents… accidents that could easily have been avoided. The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island recently instituted a mandatory 3-month suspension of a driver’s license at the first ‘stop paddle’ violation, along with a $5,000 fine, as a forceful means of reducing this behavior and better protecting students.
On Orcas Island we don’t have the threat of losing our license (yet) but let’s show our children how much we care about their safety by simply doing the right thing – be patient, respect the flashing lights and stop paddle and give the kids the time and space they need to board the bus safely.
Orcas School District