Don’t let the appearance of yellow buses this week make you think you’re behind on your calendar. Though the start of the school year for Gwinnett County Public Schools is still 10 days way, bus drivers will begin driving their routes during actual drive times starting on Wednesday.
The exercise serves as a trial run not only for the bus drivers, but also for parents and students as they get used to the rhythym and times of the routes. To that end, it will also serve as preparation for other motorists, a signaling of an end to their less-congested summer commutes.
Buses being back on the road combined with parents driving their children to school will add a large number of vehicles to the road, which in turn will increase the amount of time it takes you to get to work or any other destination. Understandably, emotions run high as the traffic worsens, but we encourage commuters to be mindful of traffic laws, particularly when it comes to passing stopped buses.
Passing a stopped school bus is both dangerous and illegal, with fines of $300 for the first incident, $750 for the second and $1,000 for the third. This year it will also be easier to enforce after a school board decision to install “stop arm cameras” on some GCPS buses. We applaud this step by the school district, which is needed because of the large volume of drivers who continue to violate the law, putting school children in danger.
Last year during a pilot program using the cameras on four buses, 444 violations were recorded by GCPS. During that same period, according to GCPS, drivers of buses that didn’t have cameras reported 1,903 instances of motorists passing their buses illegally. The cameras record both a close-up of the violator’s license plate and a broader view of the incident itself. GCPS hopes to have 100 cameras installed by Labor Day and will gradually phase others in with a goal of 300 by the fall.
As we prepare for the start of school on Aug. 7, there are also other ways for parents to ensure their children’s safety, with GCPS recommending that parents do the following:
• Find the location of their child’s bus stop and take their child to that bus stop before the first day of school.
• Drive their child around the area near the bus stop, ensuring familiarity with the route and recognition of where to get off the bus.
• Make sure their children understand that if they are uncertain about a stop they should not get off the bus. The child should tell the driver he or she isn’t sure. The school bus will take the student back to the school and contact the parents.
• Set the child’s routine from the very first morning. If a family has decided a student will ride the school bus for the school year, a parent should have them ride the bus that first morning and not drive them to school. Following the routine from the first day helps the student and the driver become familiar with each other and the bus route.
• Plan with a group of other parents and adults to have an adult supervisor present each morning and afternoon at the bus stop.
• Call their local school if for any reason their child doesn’t get off the bus, or they an call the transportation department at 770-513-6686 if they can’t reach the school.
GCPS is the second largest transporter of students in the country, moving 126,000 students to and from school each day. It’s a major undertaking, but one that can be made safer if everyone is mindful of both the buses and the law.