LITTLE ROCK – The protection of our children from armed attackers at school has been a matter of great concern this year. Fortunately, those events are rare, and the work of the Arkansas School Safety Commission will further reduce the risk.
But our students who ride a bus to school face danger every day from drivers who ignore the flashing red lights on a bus that has stopped to allow students on or off.
The Arkansas Department of Education has made great effort to educate drivers that state law requires all drivers to stop for a stopped school bus. In spite of that effort, a one-day survey of school bus drivers indicates the number of violators increased by more than 100 this year over last. And this year’s total is 250 more than three years ago when bus drivers reported over 600 violations.
Bus drivers reported over 850 violations on April 24, the day the Department of Education took this year’s survey.
Jerry Owens is the senior transportation manager in the Department of Education. He said the results from this year’s survey “are alarming. One incident is one too many.”
In its ongoing effort to drive the message home, the education department once again is promoting the “Flashing Red. Kids Ahead” campaign. Approximately 350,000 young Arkansans board one of about 7,000 school buses every day. That’s a lot of possibility for injury.
Leaders in our state take the issue seriously. In 2005, the General Assembly passed a bill known as “Isaac’s Law.” This law greatly increased the penalties for passing a stopped school bus.
Legislators passed the law after a driver illegally passed a bus and killed 9-year-old Isaac Brian.
Kimberly Friedman, director of communications for the education department, points out that drivers approaching a bus from either direction must stop for the flashing red lights.
The law places responsibility on bus drivers as well. It requires a bus driver to ensure that the bus is properly marked, to regularly inspect the warning system, and to activate the warning system, including the flashing red lights, at every stop to take on or drop off a student.
Last year, the number of violations was 726. This year, the number was 857. The total since 2014 is over 3,400. That’s more than 3,000 miracles – the number of children who safely completed their trip to school and back home in spite of careless drivers.
Our children look to the adults to keep them safe. Let’s work together to see that our children arrive at school safely and remain safe while they are there.