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Every day in Rowan County, 43 school buses transport almost 3,000 students on school buses to and from school. The bus drivers are on constant alert, though, watching for drivers in other vehicles who attempt to pass the school buses while loading and unloading students.

With Rowan County Schools starting back on Thursday, Aug. 8, it is important for drivers to be aware of the school buses on the roads.

“Drivers need to be vigilant and watch for school buses as they are traveling on the roads throughout the county,” said Janie Davenport, director of Rowan County Schools Transportation Department. “Pay attention to children who are waiting to board a bus or getting off the school bus. When drivers see the lights begin to flash on a school bus, they need to slow down and prepare to stop. We are transporting precious cargo – your children. It is important that we all work together to keep them safe.”

More often than not, it is the distracted drivers, most often those who are looking at and using their cell phones while driving, or drivers who are speeding that put children in more danger than anything else.

“Using a cell phone while driving takes a driver’s attention away from the road,” said Guy Griffin, compliance coordinator for the transportation department. “Drivers who are distracted will often not see students waiting on the side of the road for a school bus, stop signs, reduced speed limit signs, or even the flashing lights on a school bus.”

Kentucky law states that if any school bus used in the transportation of children is stopped on a highway for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers, with the stop arm and signal lights activated, the operator of a vehicle approaching from any direction must stop and not proceed until the passengers have loaded/unloaded and the bus has been put in motion.

Passing a school bus while it is loading or unloading is a class B misdemeanor for the first offense and a class A misdemeanor for the second offense.

Supt. John Maxey urged drivers to be extra cautious when school starts, saying, “Law enforcement officers will be monitoring back to school traffic, but we encourage all drivers to watch out for students as they are waiting to board the buses or exiting the buses. We also encourage parents to talk with their children and remind them about the procedures for safely getting on and getting off the school bus. We have to work together to protect our students as they travel to and from school.”

Below are some important rules for getting on and getting off a school bus safely.

Rules for getting on the school bus

When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness. Do not stray onto streets or private property.

Line up away from the street or road as the school bus approaches.

Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before stepping onto the roadway.

Use the hand rail when stepping onto the bus.     

Getting off the school bus

If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road, until you can turn around and see the driver.

Make sure that the driver can see you.

Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross.

When the driver signals, walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.

Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver has signaled that it is safe for you to begin walking.

Stay away from the bus’s rear wheels at all times.

Correct way to cross the street

Children should always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing.

They should continue looking in this manner until they are safely across.

If students' vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, they should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles -- then stop, and look left-right-left again.