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In the hustle and bustle of the morning rush to get to work and drop the kids off at school, as well as picking them up in the afternoon, many people have started frequently ignoring one of the most important laws and safety precautions to protect children as they are entering and exiting school buses.
"We have a big problem with this," said Guymon Public Schools Director of Transportation, Scot Dahl. "Almost daily, one of my drivers will bring me the license plate of someone that's been running the stop signs."
Dahl said bus drivers give him detailed information including license plate, vehicle description, time of day, which school, etc., and then he forwards the information on to Danielle (Danni) Hollings, the school officer.
When the bus lights are flashing and there is a stop sign out, individuals should stop before reaching the bus. It is for the safety of the children. Not only are they rushing off the school bus to get to school and may not be paying attention, but Dahl said there could be a situation where a student loses a piece of paper or their homework and then they take off running and chasing after it in the street. If vehicles are not stopping properly, it can cause harm to these students.
"Their safety has got to come first," said Dahl. "Our worst area is over by the Junior High and Academy where our buses do the exchange in the mornings. That's where we have most of our violations. We will have our lights on and stop signs out and everything, and people will just fly through there. They don't even slow down."
Dahl is hoping to get local officers to go on ride-alongs with the bus drivers so they can see the violators and how many people ignore these bus stop sign rules.
The Guymon School Officer, Danni Hollings, goes into more detail of the importance of this issue.
"Safety of our students is a top priority for Guymon Schools, and school bus stop violations continue to be a major concern," said Hollings. "The stop signs on the buses are are extended with the flashing lights at all pick up and drop off points for the safety of our loading and unloading students. Children, especially our younger children, occasionally forget to check for traffic before crossing the street."
She continues on to say the bus stop signs are designed to help prevent needless tragedy during the loading and unloading of the school buses.
"The bus stop signs are not a suggestion," Hollings added. "Just as we wait for any other red light in town, and we stop at all other stop signs, the law demands the same for all bus stop signs. Only when the lights have stopped flashing AND the stop sign has been retracted, is it appropriate to proceed."
"I understand we all get in hurry at times and have places we need to be," she said, "but the safety of our children should be on the forefront of everyone's mind when passing through a school zone or approaching a stopped bus. With the much appreciated assistance of the city police department, myself and the on-duty officers of the day, we are able to patrol many of the school zones before and after school, but we can't catch everything."
She goes on to explain that if an individual is caught violating the school bus stop sign, the officer has the authority to cite the driver for the violation. That ticket can run up to $294 dollars and discusses new state statutes.
She said that the bus drivers have been doing a great job getting vehicle descriptions and plate numbers.
"This assists me in curbing the problem as well," she said. "When I receive that information, I can look up by running the tag number through the police department and send the driver a letter advising them of the law and the penalties for the violation. That information may also be submitted to the court for legal action."
Beginning Nov. 1 of this year, the state statute reads in Title 47, Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 6-205 that:
A. The Department of Public Safety shall immediately revoke the driving privilege of any person, whether adult or juvenile, upon receiving a record of conviction in any municipal, state or federal court within the United States of any of the following offenses, when such conviction has become final.
12. Failure to stop or to remain stopped for school bus loading or unloading of children pursuant to Section 11-705 or 11-705.1 of this title.
The statute goes on to state that the first license revocation under any provision of this section shall be for a period of one year without modification.
A license revocation under any provision of this section shall be for a period of three years if a prior revocation under this section commenced within the preceding five-year period as shown by the records of the department without modification.
Dahl and Hollings are directly involved with the safety issues of these students and are advocates for their safety, but they hope that the rest of the community will start being more involved and aware of their surroundings as well. It is important to look for the flashing lights and stop signs, as they are there for a reason. No job or appointment is worth the risk of possibly causing serious harm to a student.
School zones and bus lights and signs are in place for a very specific reason and are a law just like any other law that should be followed. Consequences of not following these laws are getting tougher, and will not be modified.
(National School Bus Safety Week is Oct. 21-25)