School bus safety reminders shared

VALLEY — With most San Luis Valley schools starting next week and some already in session, yellow school buses will once again become a familiar sight on county roads and municipal streets.

Alamosa School Transportation Director Glenn Sykes and his wife and colleague Sargent School Transportation Director Rebecca Sykes reminded area motorists to help keep students safe this year by following the law.

“Red means stop,” Glenn Sykes said. “When the red lights are flashing, you have to stop. Everyone, even ambulances, have to stop. It’s not an option. Those laws are clear.”

No one is above the law, but unfortunately out of ignorance or sometimes disregard, thousands of people do not follow the law when it comes to passing school buses that are stopped with red flashing lights.

On any given day in this nation, about 78,000 people illegally pass school buses, Rebecca Sykes added, sometimes with fatal results. Sixty-eight percent of the bus fatality victims are very young children.

Glenn Sykes said 65 percent of those illegally passing school buses are doing so because they are distracted, and another 30 percent because they do not know the law, while there is a small percentage that just does not care. He said he is hoping to reduce the number of people who just do not know the law and is hoping to use several media including Facebook and Twitter to help get bus safety messages out to the public. He also plans to talk to high school students who have recently acquired their drivers’ licenses to make sure they know and understand the law requiring them to stop behind buses. The consequence of not following the law could be the loss of the license they just acquired, he added, or worse.

He said the only reason there are not more fatalities is because bus drivers are watching out for the young people in their care.

“They keep those kids safe,” he said.

He and Rebecca said they are grateful for the dedicated bus drivers who drive the routes in their districts and throughout the nation, many who have been serving their districts for decades. They have to be super vigilant because the students and too many times other motorists are not.

The Sykes encouraged motorists to have patience when stopped behind school buses. One bus might unload dozens of children, which takes time, but as long as the bus is stopped with its red lights flashing, motorists must remain behind the bus to allow students to safely get on and off. That means not passing the bus on either side.

Buses are also required to stop at railroad crossings, and motorists need to understand that and be patient.

“People are in a hurry and don’t want to take the time to stop,” Rebecca Sykes said.

She urged motorists to pay extra attention as school begins again around the Valley “that those big yellow buses are moving and carrying precious cargo.”

The Sykes said school buses in Colorado hold to the highest standard in the nation and are built to be strong and sturdy, and bus drivers do everything in their power to keep their young charges safe while on the bus.

They asked other motorists to do the same.

Caption: Remember to stop behind school buses when their red lights are on and flashing. It's not an option. It's the law./Courtesy photo