Big yellow buses are back on the roads!

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Hundreds of Ripley County children will be transported on the big yellow buses this week as schools across the county get into full swing. Rose Morton, transportation director for South Ripley schools wants motorists to be aware that buses will be making frequent, sudden stops with children loading and unloading. “We educate the students on what they need to do to stay safe and we’re hoping motorists will help us out,” she told the Osgood Journal.

Some basic rules to follow could mean the difference between life or death for a child.

• Motorists are urged to slow down in school zones. Don’t even travel five miles over the speed limit. This increases the risk of hitting a child.

• Never pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing...not even on the other side of the street.

• Stay focused on driving especially in the morning and evening when the buses are on the roadways.
Ray Palermo, director of public information for Teachers’ Insurance Plan noted, “This is a critical time of year. Drivers need to re-acclimate themselves to having children on and near the road, particularly at rush hours.” He also cautioned parents and children to “get back into their good traffic safety habits.”

Palermo offered these tips for children riding the bus:
• Do not play in the street while waiting for the bus.
• Line up facing the bus, not along side it.
• After getting off the bus, move out of traffic.
• Wait for the bus driver to signal you to cross the street. Walk away from the front of the bus so the driver can see you.

Morton noted that some of the buses have a long stop arm on the front that the students have to walk around. This clearance allows the bus driver to see the child more clearly.

The schools are required to have all buses inspected. The Summer Inspection was performed by the Indiana State Police DOT division and for South Ripley, Morton reports all buses passed.

Another aspect of bus safety is teaching the children how to properly ride the bus. “All of our buses are now equipped with video cameras,” noted Morton, who said that has made a big difference when settling a dispute.

Children are given a form about the bus rules. This form must be completed with each student’s name and grade, the bus number they ride, their parent’s signature, address and telephone number. In the rules children are cautioned about how to enter the bus, that loud, boisterous indecent conduct will not be tolerated, students will not be allowed to be rude, discourteous, or annoying to other students, they must remain seated until the bus comes to a complete stop, and basically all school rules apply the same to the bus route to and from school. Remember riding a bus is a privilege, not a right.

Following the rules makes the bus ride a safer environment and doesn’t distract the driver’s attention from the road. Morton says if parents do have a concern to call her immediately and she’ll check the situation out. “Communication is the key,” she noted, saying, “sometimes things are simply misunderstood.”

Saying buses have a lot of blind spots, Morton noted that children should never pick up something they have dropped as they board or leave the bus area. “We do a safety class the first week of school showing the children a video, making them aware of the blind spots,” she commented. Children are taught how to evacuate a bus quickly in case of an emergency. High school students are taught to help with the younger students, they can use the bus radio to call for help should the driver be unconscious, they can use the fire extinguisher and more. “You’d be surprised how much they can really do,” the transportation director noted.

Another issue that comes up daily is children who need to go to a different address than the one they were picked up from. “They simply need a note from their parents with the name and address of where they should go,” Morton said. “If it just says ‘take Johnnie to Grandma’s house’ he might not know her name, other than Grandma,” she laughed, saying it makes a bad situation.

While it might seem that children have a lot of rules to follow just to ride to and from school, Morton, who has been at this vocation for eight years, says, “it’s all about the safety of the children.”
While the job of a bus driver might not be an easy one, it’s very rewarding, according to Morton. “I’ve told my drivers they can make or break a child’s day. I ask them to say ‘good morning’ to the children and learn their names.”

Morton concluded by saying the school system is in need of drivers and volunteers. If anyone is interested they can contact her at the South Ripley Elementary School.