Watch out for school buses

A distracted motorist is a dangerous motorist, and in today’s busy, high-tech world there are dozens of ways for those behind the wheel of a vehicle to have their attention steered away from the road. While it’s important to always pay attention when driving, it’s perhaps never more important than when there are school buses on the road.

Too often, motorists ignore laws that help to ensure the safety of children who are either riding the bus, boarding the bus or disembarking from the massive yellow vehicle, and that leads to tragedies that can often be avoided with just a little more patience and a lot more attention paid to the road.

This past week, during National School Bus Safety Week and Operation Stop Arm, awareness has been the key, as Highway Patrol troopers and local law enforcement have tried to educate the public on the hazards of ignoring laws that pertain to school buses. They are rules, sure, but none are any more important. When followed, safety happens; when not, unfortunate incidents can arise.

Tragically, we have seen in Sampson County had deadly not following those laws can be. Just a few short years ago now a Union Elementary youngster was killed when a motorist failed to stop for the extended bus arm, striking the child as she disembarked the bus and headed home.

Sampson’s story isn’t unique. Other children have been killed in similar, heartbreaking incidents. Most, if not all of them, could have been avoided.

Consider how many vehicles you see on any given day fail to stop for extended school bus arms. Some are simply ignorant to the laws, others are in too big a hurry and still others are paying attention to something other than the school bus stopped in front of them.

No matter the case, caution and more attention are the keys to greater safety when school buses are on the roads.

We agree with Sampson County Schools superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy, who has been quoted in this paper as saying that “we just need to slow down, be careful and watch our surroundings.”

And if we can’t do those three simple things, then we hope troopers will enforce stop arm violations and other traffic infractions that will help motorists clearly understand the seriousness of these offenses.

Hear the words of the N.C. State Highway Patrol: “We must ensure our children’s safety as they travel to and from school. A child’s life should never be put in danger just to save a minute or two during a daily commute. That’s why we are going to make sure people know the law as well as the consequences of breaking it.”

They are right on all counts. Our children’s safety is paramount and far more important than whatever might be holding our attention when we fail to stop for that extended arm.

It is our hope that motorists will heed the warnings being given out at every turn, understand school bus safety and follow the letter of the laws that help ensure that children are as safe as possible when they are riding the bus, getting on the bus or departing the bus.

Whether it’s during a special week such as this or any other time of the year, seeing a school bus should remind us all to slow down, pay attention and obey the laws. Doing so will help ensure we all get to our destinations safely.

Please heed school bus safety laws