Carson City pushing safety around school buses

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Overtaking and passing a school bus when lights are flashing isn’t just a matter of impatience for drivers on Nevada’s roadways — it also is illegal.

Western Nevada Safe Routes to School coordinator Scott Bohemier hopes to help drivers be a little more cautious by paying extra attention to school buses to help keep students, bus drivers and themselves safe.

Bohemier also serves as transportation planner and analyst with Carson City’s Public Works.

“While riding a bus is a safe way for students to get to school, cars passing stopped school buses is a troubling problem we face and can ultimately lead to injury or even death of one or more children. Keeping our students safe is a must. Students getting on and off the bus are sometimes distracted by the excitement of their day and don’t always think before they run,” Bohemier said.

Problem areas in Carson City where vehicles are passing buses most frequently without stopping include Hot Springs Road at Tiger Drive and the Sierra Springs Apartments, also at Hot Springs Road.

Drivers also fail to stop along North Curry to Washoe streets down to Clearview Drive, as well as Silver Sage from Pat Lane to East Clearview Drive, along Ormsby Boulevard and around Seeliger Elementary School off Saliman Road, he said.

Asked how long bus drivers are delayed when waiting for cars to pass them, Bohemier said it is typically about 30 seconds, which “isn’t significant.”

But for bus drivers to remain safe as they pull in and out of traffic or make stops to pick up students or allow students to cross, they must ensure other drivers can acknowledge their stops through a series of steps.

“Drivers are constantly checking their mirrors and windows for traffic as they approach and depart from stops,” Bohemier said. “When students exit the bus, they are to cross in front of the bus, so the driver can communicate to them by making eye contact and using a sweeping hand motion, when it is safe for them to cross.”

Bus drivers also use their lights to signal to others behind them they have come to a complete stop and are not ready to proceed, and generally lights are flashing about one minute, he said.

“They are effective as long as motorists are aware that the purpose of the yellow flashing lights are warning them to slow down, approaching bus stop, and red flashing lights mean. ‘stop, students are loading or unloading,’” he said.

More than 400 children nationwide were killed by drivers passing a stopped school bus during the past four decades, according to the Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

The Silver State is explicit about offenses for motorists who overtake and pass a bus in traffic. Nevada Revised Statute 484B.353, concerning the duties of driver penalties, says, “For a first offense or any subsequent offense for which a punishment is not provided for in paragraph (a) or (b), shall be punished by a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $500.”

NRS goes on to describe second and third offenses, with increasing penalties.

Bohemier emphasized the importance of keeping everyone safe on the roads.

“Carson City is a tight-knit community. If there ever were an accident involving a student, it would be devastating on so many levels,” said Cheri Fletcher, director of transportation for the Carson City School District. “Passing a stopped school bus is against the law and could have fatal consequences. Nothing is worth the risk. Children’s lives are on the line — every driver needs to stop when the red lights on a school bus are flashing and stop arms are extended.”


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