PLATTSBURGH — In just a few short days, area residents will again be sharing the roadways with school buses carting precious cargo.
And the safety of the children riding those buses is largely dependent on whether other motorists adhere to traffic laws, according to Dean Lincoln, administrative director of Student Transportation and Technology at AuSable Valley Central School.
In New York state, it is illegal for the driver of a vehicle to pass a school bus that is receiving or discharging passengers or has another bus in front of it doing the same.
All motorists must stop for such buses, no matter the roadway they are on nor the direction in which they are traveling.
Within 300 feet of coming to a stop, Lincoln explained, school buses will display flashing yellow lights. As soon as a bus stops and flashes red lights, it is illegal to pass it on either side and from any direction.
“People need to be diligent when they see a school bus and watch for any lights,” Lincoln said.
Last spring, Lincoln was alarmed by the number of vehicles that were seen illegally passing stopped school buses as they were loading and unloading passengers in the area.
“This is a very dangerous situation for students because they are sometimes having to cross the highway to board the bus. We’ve actually experienced some close calls.”
Some people appear to be in a hurry as they quickly drive around the buses, according to Lincoln, while others may simply not be paying attention.
Of course, neither is a good enough excuse to justify jeopardizing the life of a student, he said.
At times, local bus drivers have even reported seeing people texting on their cell phones as they passed stopped buses or attempting to pass on the right, instead of the left, side of a bus.
“It’s a serious safety issue,” Lincoln said.
A first-time conviction for passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing carries a penalty of five points on one’s licence, a fine of $250 to $400 and possible imprisonment of up to 30 days.
“But more importantly, of course, is the safety of the child,” Lincoln said.
School buses are most likely to be on the road between 6:30 and 9 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m., according to Lincoln; however, it is possible for motorists to encounter buses carrying passengers at any time of day.
For more information about state vehicle and traffic laws and school-bus safety, visit safeny.ny.gov.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org