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Local Commentary -- For childrens' sake always be mindful of school bus safety

By Deann Recker

School Bus Safety Week is Oct. 19-23, and Morris Area schools would like to inform school district residents about our pupil transportation program. Safety for our children is always our No. 1 concern.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest hazards to our students comes from motorists who do not always observe the lighting system on all of our school busses.

We use an eight-light school bus warning system. The lights are located on the front and rear of the bus near the top where you see 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 will extend 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 by a fine of not less that $300. A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and is subject to licensure revocation if the driver doesn'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 hand, 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 2008-2009 school year, our school district had eight motorists who violated our bus stop laws. This school year we already have had four violations. Fortunately, none of these violations have resulted in any injuries; however, this figure underscores the importance of school bus safety and extra motorist caution while in the vicinity of school busses.

Anytime a motorist violates the school bus stop law, he or she creates a hazard for students who are boarding or leaving the bus. Please help our school bus drivers keep all of our 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. If you have any questions, please call the Morris Area School District Transportation Department at (320) 589-3932.

Deann Recker is Transportation Supervisor for the Morris Area School District.