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Drivers – Don’t Forget to Stop on Red!
Friday, November 4, 2016
On a recent school day, Liverpool Central School District bus drivers reported that 90 vehicles passed their school buses when their red lights were flashing. That means that each incident took place when several Liverpool students were entering or exiting the bus, which could have resulted in one or more being injured or killed.
According to New York State law, it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing. The first-time a person illegally passes a school bus and is stopped by law enforcement, he or she will be fined $250 to $400, receive five points on his or her license and/or possibly spend 30 days in jail.
Liverpool Central School District Director of Transportation Laura D’Arcangelis said that the number of vehicles passing stopped school buses has increased dramatically over the last few years and one the biggest reasons behind it is distracted driving.
For drivers, it is important to remember that flashing yellow lights signal the bus is about to stop, and that drivers should slow down and prepare to stop as well. Once the bus has stopped and its red lights are flashing, drivers must stop from either direction, even on divided highways, because the bus is either picking up or dropping off riders. Drivers can proceed only when the red lights are turned off and the bus is moving again.
D’Arcangelis said that when the bus driver sees a vehicle pass illegally, he or she tries to take down the license plate number and report it to the LCSD Transportation Center. The plate information is then submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Albany, and the driver receives a letter reminding them that they need to stop for school buses with their red lights flashing. In cases of egregious and ongoing situations, the LCSD Transportation Center contacts local law enforcement to ask for a patrol in that specific area.
The LCSD Transportation Department considers student safety its top concern and bus drivers receive regular training regarding safety procedures, especially in regards to loading and unloading students at bus stops. Students are constantly reminded that their cell phones and ear buds should not be used when entering or exiting the bus so that they can pay attention to their surroundings. And they should always watch and listen for a signal from bus driver to make sure that it is safe to proceed.
LCSD Assistant Director of Transportation Ann Hamlin said that parents and guardians are invaluable when it comes to reporting these incidents, and encourages them to contact the Transportation Center (315-453-0287) or local law enforcement covering a specific street or neighborhood (Liverpool Police Department, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department or the NYS Police) with a license plate number if they witness vehicles illegally passing a school bus. They also can continue to remind students to adhere all to safety procedures and to always look both ways when entering or exiting the bus or crossing the street.