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Be informed about school bus warning system during safety week

Morris Area school bus drivers are honored for their key roles in keeping students safe. In back, from left, are Erv Krosch, Chris Vogel, Jim Stock, Diane DeJong, Bob Libbon, Jim Snowberg, Clarence Lanus and Jane Moe. In front, from left are Sharon Carlson, Jim Aeikens, Shirley Kill and Kevin Wohlers. Photo courtesy Morris Area School District.

The Morris Area School District would like to inform district residents about its pupil transportation program during School Bus Safetly Week, Oct. 18-22.

Safety for children is always the No. 1 concern. Unfortunately, one of the greatest hazards to students comes from motorists who do not always observe the lighting system on school busses.

Districts use an eight-light school bus warning system. The lights are located on the front and rear of the bus near the top by the "School Bus" sign. The lamps are used to warn traffic about what the school bus is doing. When the bus is approaching a loading or unloading area, the yellow lights will flash so motorists should prepare to stop. Red lights flash and a stop arm is extended from the side of the bus when the bus is stopped to load or unload students.

Motorists are required to stop at least 20 feet from a stopped bus that is displaying flashing red lights and the stop arm. A motorist who doesn't stop for a school bus is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable of a fine of not less that $300. Drivers are guilty of a gross misdemeanor and could have their drivers licenses revoked if they don't stop for a school bus and commits either or both of the following acts: passes or tries to pass the school bus on the right, passenger side of the bus; or passes or tries to pass the school bus when a school child is outside on the street or highway used by the school bus or on the adjacent sidewalk.

During the 2009-2010 school year, The Morris Area district had seven motorists violate bus stop laws. This school year, the district already has had two violations. Fortunately, none of these violations have resulted in any injuries, but this figure underscores the importance of school bus safety and extra motorist caution while in the vicinity of school busses.

Anytime motorists violate the school bus stop law, they create a hazard for students who are boarding or leaving the bus. Please help school bus drivers keep students safe this school year by noticing yellow and red flashing lights, slowing down when approaching a school bus, and watching for students moving near the bus. Anyone who has questions can call the district's Transportation Department at (320) 589-3932.