- Parma City School District
Keeping students safe on and off the bus is a job for the entire community
February 3, 2020
Each day, as the wheels on the school bus “go ‘round and ‘round,” keeping students safe in the Parma City School District becomes the important job for approximately 100 bus drivers from the Transportation Department.
However, keeping students safe each school day is really a responsibility for all of us on the road and in the community.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 million children nationwide take about 472,000 school buses to attend school each day. In Parma, 107 buses throughout the district safely deliver about 3,500 children to school, covering 30 square miles.
School buses are specifically designed to be safe for children, and according to the NHTSA, they are “the most regulated vehicles on the road.” In fact, school buses are the safest way to get a child to school, with students 70 times more likely to get to school safe in a school bus than traveling by car, according to the NHTSA.
Yet, each year, students nationwide are placed in harm’s way when loading and unloading off the bus. And recently, that’s garnered the attention of local authorities and school districts, who continually strive to get children safe to school each day, no matter what.
According to PCSD Transportation Supervisor Angelo Caputo, the rules in Ohio are pretty straight forward for motorists when school buses stop to load and unload students.
On a road with fewer than four lanes, all traffic approaching a stopped school bus must stop at least 10 feet from the front and rear of the bus. Traffic must remain stopped until the bus begins to move, or the driver signals other drivers to proceed. This includes two and three-lane roads, including a road with a center turning lane.
On a road with four or more lanes of traffic, only traffic moving in the same direction of the bus must stop. This includes a four-lane highway with a center turn lane.
“If you’re behind the bus you always have to stop, no matter what,” Caputo explained. “But if you’re on the opposite side of the road and maybe you don’t know, be prepared to stop. If you don’t know - and that’s the problem - a lot of people don’t know. Some people stop and some people don’t. Just use caution and be prepared to stop.”
According to Caputo, many times motorists run through the flashing red lights for two reasons, either from distracted driving or from being in a hurry. Each day, Caputo says he gets “several” reports of motorists running past established student bus drops.
“Often times we get concerns from citizens about a bus taking too long at a bus stop,” Caputo expressed. “Sometimes people need to understand that we do need to provide special needs transportation for students that take a little extra time getting on and off the bus. Whether that is because they are in a wheelchair, or because they need more assistance using the steps, or they’re having a bad day and not want to get up out of their seats right away…I know sometimes it can be inconvenient or frustrating, but our job is not to stop and block traffic all day. Our job is to make sure our students are safe and sometimes they just need a little bit of extra time.”
In Ohio, consequences are severe for drivers fail to stop for a school bus. Motorists can have two points added to their license, along with possible fines up to $500. In addition, a judge may suspend a license up to one year. Penalties become even more severe if an injury is sustained by a pedestrian during a bus stop.
Bus drivers will write down license plate numbers, along with makes and models of vehicles that violate the law. In addition, the department almost daily receives tips from other drivers in the community who are concerned about students’ safety.
In either case, PCSD Transportation works closely with local law enforcement to pursue charges against the driver. According to Caputo, each week, the PCSD has enough information to send to police to convict at least five to seven offenses.
“Since all of this has been so visible in the community, we have community members that will call in and provide the make and model of vehicles, or even their license plate,” Caputo added. “So, one good thing with all of this publicity about school bus safety in the last year and a half is that the community is more aware of it. If they see something that happens, they will definitely report it.”
Caputo encourages drivers just to have patience and caution the next time they are out on the roadways and especially near school buses.
“If everyone stops and maybe they didn’t have to, that’s okay,” Caputo said. “It just means people took a little bit of extra caution to make sure everybody was safe.”
TOP: Procedures in Ohio for automobiles to stop on a two-lane highway (TOP LEFT), a two-lane highway with center turn lane (TOP RIGHT) and a three-lane highway (MIDDLE LEFT).
BELOW: Procedures for automobiles on a four-lane highway (BOTTOM LEFT) and four-lane highway with center turn lane (BOTTOM RIGHT).