To the Editor:
Growing up in a small town has its benefits. I'm not sure if I really appreciated them until I had kids of my own. One of the drawbacks here is that there were only so many things you could do around town before getting bored. Most parents reading this know what I'm talking about (by the way, is it time for school to start again?). You can only play whiffle ball so longyou can only play your 8-bit Nintendo so long. You get the picture. To pass the time, my friends and I would often make up names for common items around town. I know it sounds weak, but we were bored, remember? The yellow school bus was one of our favoritesaffectionately known as 'The Cheese Wagon'. I think we arrived at this name by associating the shape and color of the school bus with a log of Velveeta cheese. Pretty unique, right?
Little did we know how unique the school bus really was. For example, did you know that the color of every school bus in the U.S. is the same shade? National School Bus Yellow is the official name given this color, and you won't be finding it anytime soon at a paint store near you. A school bus is the only object that is allowed to be this color. In fact, the law requires school busses sold to private parties be repainted another colorfurther underscoring the unique purpose of this color, and of this vehicle.
Along with the unique color, the school bus was mechanically designed for an even higher purposethe safe transport of our children. Advancements in safety continue to make the school bus the safest mode of student transportation. In Iowa, only 6 children have been killed in traffic crashes ON THE SCHOOL BUS since 1955. This is truly a testament to the design of the modern school bus.
Unfortunately, a number of students have been injured or killed while getting on and off the bus. Most of these incidents involve other vehicles not obeying the flashing red lights when students are being picked up or dropped off. As students gear up for the 2014-15 school year, the Iowa State Patrol has a few tips for motorists encountering school busses on our roads.
n If you encounter a bus on the road, expect it to be stopping.
A defensive driver anticipates what could be coming next. Anticipate that every school bus has students on board and will be stopping on the roadway at some point.
n Know how to react when the amber and red lights begin flashing.
When amber lights are flashing, traffic following a bus may not pass. Traffic approaching from the front must slow and be prepared to stop. When the stop sign is extended and red lights are flashing, both directions of traffic must stop.
n Violations do not have to be witnessed by law enforcement.
Law enforcement is required to issue a citation for this violation after the investigation is complete. A school bus driver is able to testify in lieu of a police officer witnessing the actual violation. Many school districts have also added on-board camera systems to their bus fleet, increasing the conviction rate on these violations.
n School bus stop arm violations are very costly, in more than one way.
A violation of this code now requires a court appearance. First offense fines are up to $675 plus up to 30 days in jail, and a 30 day license suspension. It is also likely that your auto insurance rates will go up as a result.
The next time you see a 'cheese wagon' on the road, remember the unique purpose it serves our children. Do your part to keep them safe by paying attention and obeying school bus stop signals.
Trooper Vince Kurtz #495
Iowa State Patrol Safety Education