Bus Safety Stressed

ST. MARYS — With local children heading back to school on Wednesday, a local official is reminding residents and students of the proper bus safety protocols.

St. Marys City Schools Transportation Supervisor Dan Grothause noted the proper behavior students should have while riding the school bus and reminded residents of the rules for stopping for a stopped school bus.

“A big thing is the behavior in the school bus. They should observe the same behavior they do in the classroom — respect, being quiet, no horseplay,” he said. “If the kids are misbehaving and the driver gets distracted, the worst consequences can happen.”

Grothause noted even whispered conversations can be a distraction, but he said he understands kids will talk.

“They have to talk quietly,” he said. “With 80 kids on a bus, it’s going to be noisy.”

For community members, Grothause cautioned residents to be careful.

“The yellow buses are on the roads,” he said. “Whenever you see a bus, expect kids.”

He also noted paying attention to the lights on the bus.

“Yellow warning lights mean the bus is preparing to stop,” Grothause said. “The red warning lights mean traffic in both directions has to stop until the lights are turned off — on roads of three lanes of traffic or less.”

He noted the local police department has been helpful, and officers will have a heavy presence on the look for violators.

“They have always been very supportive about having a heavy presence in school zones,” Grothause said.

He added it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus.

“The drivers have a duty to report it,” Grothause said. “It’s the only offense that they can issue a citation without having to observe it.”

He added that if there are areas where it keeps happening, law enforcement will step in.

“If we have habitual occasions in some spots, they’ll go out and sit there,” Grothause said, noting law enforcement works well with the school district. “During bus safety week in October, they will usually do ride-alongs.”

He noted residents should also pay attention to their speed during school hours.

“The yellow 20 mph school lights will be flashing, so watch for those,” he said.

Grothause noted the heavy bus traffic hours in the morning and in the afternoon when community drivers should especially be on the lookout.

“Our first pickup in town is as early as 6:30 a.m. and students are out as late as 8:15 a.m.,” he said.

“In the afternoon, they’re out from 2:35 p.m. to 4 p.m. in town.”

During the early weeks of school, the students — especially the younger ones — will be taught bus safety measures.

“The drivers show them the designated place of safety, they’ll instruct the students where to stand until the bus pulls away,” Grothause said. “The elementary schools focus on it during the first week, and we build on the elementary program.”

Overall, he praised his drivers — who last year transported 1,474 students on a daily basis.

“We’ve got a great bunch of drivers,” Grothause said. “They truly have a passion for the job they do.”

For more information, log on to SMRiders.net/Assets/PDF/TransportationRules.pdf.