Old School Buses Point and Responses

The point:

They could be voted as the "most hated vehicles on two lane roads" right up there with slow-pokes. Why? Because they stop in the middle of the road holding up traffic from both directions and there is no way to get around them. There should be laws controlling WHEN they can use their red flashers and when the need to pull over.

(1) They should be REQUIRED to pull over after every 3 stops if there is ANYONE behind them to let others pass (if they is a way to pull over). Some bus drivers do, others don't. A law will require it.

(2) They should only be allowed to use there red flashers when letting off elementary school (or younger) children or when an older student has to cross the street. (In most states you don't have to stop for a school bus unless it has its red flashers on) Young elementary schoolers behavior can be unpredictable, they may decide to run out in the street. Older children behavior is more predictable and they can be trusted not to run out into the street. So why should the other lanes of traffic have to stop if the child is not going to cross the street and can be trusted (not to run out into the street)?

(3) If they are letting off more than 5 students they should be REQUIRED to pull off the main road and onto the residential street so that they don't seriously hold up traffic. There is nothing more annoying than a bus that lets of a half a bus-load of students in the middle of a main road. Traffic can often get backed up for over a half a mile in both directions for no necessary reason. If the bus driver does the simple act of turning into the neighborhood street that the kids are all going to, the situation would be solved.

If bus drivers ONLY use there red flashers when absolutely necessary and pulls over every now and than. They would become a lot more liked and people may just stop for them when it is necessary. Both the bus driver and the other drivers will be happy. Some bus drivers do but others don't; laws would require then too.

[Notes on why the issue was originally struck]

The responses:

From: Fergus Young <fyoung@oxford.net>
Date: Sun, 22 Oct 1995 00:32:17 -0400

> (1) ...

In the winter, it can be dangerous to pull over onto the unpaved
shoulder - the bus can get stuck in snow or simply slide into the
ditch on ice.  However, drivers should be required to pull over when
it is safe to do so.  In rural two lane roads, often times, children
can be safely let off the bus on the shoulder (paved or unpaved) right
in front of the driveways of their homes.

> (2) ...

In Canada, Ontario for sure, you don't have to stop unless the red
flashers are on.  I agree that unless the passenger has to cross the
street, it is meaningless to stop traffic.  The bus moves away as soon
as the children are off and on the walkway, so nothing actually stops
those children from dashing back onto the roadway anyways.  On the
other hand, small kids are often greeted by adults at the bus stop,
making it redundant for any traffic to stop.  I have observed the use
of "bus captain", usually a more mature kid leading small kids off the
bus and onto the walkway or driveway.

> (3) ...

Depending on how the new subdivisions are designed, it might be
impractical to do so at times.  Some new residential areas has a lot
of dead end streets or cul-de-sacs which make is impossible for larger
buses to turn around.  On the other hand, especially for older
students, it is simply unnecessary to stop traffic for them in the
quiet subdivisions anyways.  I've seen students running around onto
the roadway right after the school bus leaves!

I guess my point leads to the fact that the school and the bus drivers
cannot babysit the students all the way.  If the students are too
young or cannot control themselves, they should be lead to and greeted
at the bus stop by an adult.  Kids over the age of 14 are often let
out onto the streets by themselves anyways, why do we need extra
precautions when letting them off school buses.  Could it be the
school boards simply trying to cover themselves for any possible

I've seen four lanes of traffic (moving at 80 km/h) stopped to let one
kid off the bus on the right hand side in front of his home.  Car
owners are often made guilty of polluting the atmosphere, were there
any studies done on the amount of additional exhaust created by this
kind of unnecessary stopping for school buses?

From: Robert Lutkenhaus <l6690942@nctc.cc.tx.us>
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 10:32:38 -0600

There are many liabilities that the bus driver is taking when he or she
drives a bus full of children.  Children of any age are rather rambunctious
before and after school.  They are in a stage where the world to them looks
like a one way street with no traffic and no patrol car to stop them.  They
are carefree, they are wild, and for the mostpart do not understand the
dangers involved in a lot of things.  Why else do you think that they
question everything? ("Why do I have to go to bed? Why can't I have that
kind of food? Why can't I watch t.v.? Why do I have to do this? Why do I
have to do that? It's not fair!") See, they don't yet understand the rules
and why they should abide by them. They don't understand the responsibility
it takes to be in total control of their life.  Yes, I know I may seem like
I am blowing this way out of proportion, but the fact is, until they are
considered as adults, they lack the discipline it takes to look out for
themselves.  Otherwise kids would leave the house before they got out of
middle school.  Therefore, it is the drivers responisbility to use red
flashing lights to stop the traffic no matter what.  Besides, bus drivers
usually don't have some kind of kid psychology doctorate from a major
university.  I'm not saying that they can't decide whether a child is
mentally fit enough to not run out in front of traffic, but it protects the
kids, the drivers, the schools, the bus manufacturers, and the kids familys
from any kind of major loss.

Editors Note: The liability law is a very good point and one I have not 
considered before.  Perhaps the liability laws need to change a little bit
so it won't be the bus drivers fault if it is reasonably out of his control.

I dare you to really look up the laws concerning the welfare of schools and
the laws that govern how a school bus and its lights should be used and how
they came up with these regulations.

Editors Note: One of these days when I get around to it I may just do that.

From: kmheitma@unity.ncsu.edu
Date Tue, 9 Dec 1997 22:30:55 -0500 (EST)

I think it would be a better idea to have crossing guards at the busy bus
stops so that children could be keep from running across the streets and the
bus could just dump them off and the crossing guard would find the best
time to tell them to go across and the bus would be away by then.  Maybe the
crossing guards could ride on the bus and keep the children under control so
the bus driver could simply worry about driving the bus. Maybe parents could
take turns being crossing guards if they wanted to or had time. Then the bus
drivers might be nicer to other drivers because they don't have thirty
screaming and noisy kids to shoosh.  The school board and the bus driver
could relax because they would have an adult at the bus stop to lead the
children safely across the street.  A large off duty cop would work great. 

Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 22:35:05 GMT

I'm glad that I don't live in your neighborhood!

I generally support higher speed limits on roads where traffic is 
isolated from pedestrians, but when pedestrians are present 
(particularly young ones) motorists need to be prepared to stop (not
just slow down, but stop if need be).

If you can not "afford" two or three moments of down time you need to 
re-evaluate your driving habits (or your departure time!).

Children's safety must be of more importance than adults work arrival

Editors Note: My proposal is designed not to sacrifice childrens'
safety; it is designed to keep school busses from unnecessary holding
up traffic.

From: Anonymous
Date: Sun, 17 Mar 1996 00:35:22 -0500 (EST)

I would not want to live in your neighborhood or even know a person
that must be in such a rush all the time.  I have driven trucks for
over 20 years and have followed many buses over the years in the
cities and rural areas.

I may be a little bias being married to a bus driver with 8 years of
safely delivering her load home every night.  She is out in the bad
weather also trying to avoid accidents with people that have no place
to go and lots of time to get there.

As for point 1-MOST drivers will pull off the road when traffic backs
up and it is safe to do so.  Common courtesy does not have to be

Point 2 the red flashers are only allowed when loading or
off loading school children.  Drivers using their red flashers when on
charter run face very stiff fines in most areas.  The behavior of
elementary children is very unpredictable, BUT there are some ADULTS
that are just as unpredictable in their behavior also.

[Editors Note: Yes their are SOME, and those SOME adults should be
an exception to the rule]

Point 3 requiring a driver to turn into a residental street is a
good point if you are willing to cover the extra fuel costs to put
them back on their routes.  Travelling through the residental area
would also increase the pollution by the extra driving and distance
that they would travel. 

[Editors Note: What about the extra pollution, and wasted fuel
of 30 cars idling for 2 minutes while a bus driver lets off a bus load
of kids?]

The school boards must try to limit the time the children are on the
bus and get them home as quickly and safely as possible.  I would also
believe the school boards try to get the buses off the road as quickly
as possible to avoid traffic back-up in the rush hour traffic

My views and thoughts are my own and you may not agree with any of them,
but how can you put a childs safety in jeopardy trying to save a few
minutes of your time

From: Anonymous
Date: 12 Dec 1997 21:22:46 U

As a school bus driver, my desire to vent on this subject has been building
for a long time.  I am 26 yrs, and have been a school bus driver for 2
years. I feel "strongly" that the procedures in place should not only be
kept, but improved also.  When I was training, my instructor told us "people
will kill themselves to get around a school bus" and I have found this to be
overwhelmingly true.  I carry different ages of children on 4 different
runs. The runs I have are through sections that are moderate to rural.  The
stops, must be approved beforehand by the local police. Here is what happens
when I approach a stop.  Approximately 250 feet before the bus actually
stops, yellow flashing lights are activated to warn motorists of a stop.  
When I stop at a stop, the "Monitor" (an adult who's job is specifically to
follow a procedure for crossing children) gets off the bus with the
children.   At this point, I find that about 60% of the time a vehicle
passes the bus from the opposite direction.  This even after being forwarned
by the amber lights.  If any cars are approaching from a distance and find
it absolutely necessary (which they usually do) to come all the way up to
the bus, I have to wait for them.  Now, as my monitor waits on the center
line, and the children wait on the side of the road, vehicles stopped in the
opposite direction are "creeping" forward. This now forces the process to
come to a full stop,. and all motorists must now wait extra time until the
car stops and I am sure that the motorist is not going to suddenly lurch
forward while the students are crossing.  At the same time, I have to be
concerned about the vehicle behind me that is normally within 3-4 feet of
the vital emergency door exit.  I must also wait for any vehicles in the
area (on intersecting sidestreets) to come to a full stop, to avoid a
confrontation or possible collision while the students are crossing.
Stopping seems like a simple process, but it is almost always a big
production.  Now after the students have finally crossed, and I start to do
my final check before proceeding- there is most always a motorist who begins
creeping forward again, presumably to get a headstart to save the extra
fraction of a second.  Now, my attention must be on this individual when all
I want to do is get the bus out of the area.  And also, there is the
motorist who "guns" the car as soon as the lights go out.  Obviously there
are children still in the area when this happens.

While I do feel that speed limits on highways need to be increased and
theres always room for change, I feel that some points are sacrificing
safety.  Next time you drive through a school zone where the speed limit is
20mph, (most people including myself rarely notice these reduced speed
zones) notice how many people are driving far above 20mph.  My question to
drivers who I have to issue citations to is "If it was your child crossing
the street, would you want motorists to stop?" or "Would you want them
driving by a school zone at 45mph while your child stands by the side of the
road waiting to cross?"

Sutdents getting on and off a school bus is statistically proven to be the
most dangerous action most children will perform on a daily basis.  Some
comments were about older children that "play" in the street anyway when the
bus leaves.  This may be true, but they don't have an 11 foot moving wall
with 37 blind spots near them while traffic passes around it.  I am not the
safest driver in the world, I have a few speeding tickets under my belt as
well, but I do not feel that any measure of safety, no matter how far
fetched, or no matter how little the risk may be, should be sacrificed for
the sake of convenience where human lives are concerned.  Especially
children.  Minimal impact to other motorists is considered when routes are
made.  And you will find that 99 percent of the time, that the same school
bus will travel the exact same route and stop at the exact same stops at
precisely the same time every day.  A small change (2 or 3 minutes) in your
departure time, or a different route to work should avoid conflicts.  And if
motorist would perform the simple act of coming to a complete stop at a
reasonable distance and remaining stopped until the lights go off, the time
would be even less. Modern school busses are now much more capable of
keeping up with traffic.  I find that no matter how fast I am traveling,
cars always take serious chances to pass the bus.  Stopping traffic is not
about stopping cars just because we don't think you'll see the children. 
Its because all motion anywhere near the bus must stop to avoid involving
the bus or students in a collision.  If it is supposed to be so easy for
children to get off the bus or cross without stopping traffic, then why is
it so hard to get the traffic to stop? 

From: Tom, Middletown
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 21:29:28 -0500 (EST)

As a busdriver, I find that I "AM" liked by the relitives and friends of the
students I am protecting, and the people who understand that my actions are
done primarily in the interest of safety.  I am only disliked by impatient
individuals less concerned with the safety of my children and more concerned
with driving recklessly to get to work on time.

Tom, Middletown, RI

From: vickyk@scrtc.blue.net
Date: Thu, 25 Dec 1997 22:55:15 -0500 (EST)

I am a school bus driver and i'm responding to a letter i read that someone
wrote. I think if this person has nothing good to say about a school bus or
the driver, maybe they should try it sometime. ( Better yet we dont need
people like them, they would be more children hurt) I guess they dont put
themselves into the parents shoes of taking to long to unload and holding up
traffic. Stopping for a school bus is the LAW. I have two small children
that ride my bus and I try everday to treat all other 40 children on  my bus
the way i would want my own to be treated. And that is to make sure those
Kids get home safe... School bus drivers carry precious Cargo!!!

Who ever you are think about it???

(From a Bus Driver "who care about other and their lives")

From: Erik Barron <ebarron@logicraft.com>
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 09:48:04 -0400

There are already laws stating when flashers can be used.  Case in point,
A bus driver who was dropping children off at the  YMCA in town was given
a ticket for using the flashers.  The reason was that the flashers can only
be used at specified school bus stops.  Your state may vary.

As for points 1 and 3:
All of the bus drivers that I have been behind have pulled over
if they have had cars behind them as a common courtesy.

As for points 2:
I can not see how your need to get somewhere faster, is greater than
safety of the children, no matter how old they are.

I just allow more time to get to work if I have to leave when its time
for the school busses to pick up the kids.

Editors Note: This response was sent to me before I got a chance to
write out the more detailed explanation.

Note: I am no longer taking responces to this point, as I have created a new article on the subject

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