When encountering a school bus, act like it’s your child on board

Some of our area children head back to school this week. Of course, that means the return of those big, bright yellow school buses to our region’s roadways.

Each morning and then again in the afternoon, hundreds of school buses will travel to every corner of the Juniata Valley to pick up and drop off our area’s students, a process that can be time consuming and somewhat frustrating for hurried motorists who find themselves stuck behind a bus with no passing zones in sight.

That can sometimes lead to drivers making short-sighted, dangerous and illegal decisions just to try to save a few minutes on their commute.

In Pennsylvania, any time a driver encounters a stopped school bus with its red signal lights flashing and its stop arm extended, he or she must stop at least 10 feet from the bus and remain in place until the red lights have ceased flashing, the stop arm has been withdrawn and all children boarding or deboarding the bus have reached a place of safety.

If the bus is encountered at an intersection with the red lights flashing and the stop arm extended, all traffic, regardless of the direction of travel, must stop and wait.

The only exceptions are motorists traveling the opposite direction from the bus on divided roadways or if there is a physical barrier between the lane(s) of travel and the bus.

Failure to adhere to these laws can result in a 60-day suspension of your driver’s license, five points on your driving record and a $250 fine.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimates that more than 1,000 motorists in the state each year do not obey the school bus stopping law.

We hope you won’t be one of them.

When you’re in the moment and frustrated because you may be running late, it’s easy to think that passing a bus illegally just once won’t be a big deal. But before you do that, we hope you’ll also think about how you’d feel if someone broke the law around a bus that was carrying one of your children.

Every kid on that bus is someone’s son or daughter. And while being late to wherever it is you’re headed may be inconvenient, it’s far better than putting innocent children at risk.

So, please, we beg you, obey the school bus stopping law. Because any crash involving a school bus is news we certainly don’t want to have to report.