Clovis school district buses line up to wait for students Wednesday afternoon to depart Clovis High School. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.
By Gary Mitchell
Transportation officials for Clovis schools and Adair Inc. will observe “School Bus Safety Week” from Sunday through Oct. 25.
Gov. Richardson encouraged citizens “to exercise courtesy and caution concerning school buses so that children have the safest possible system of transportation.”
The governor also urged citizens “to recognize the skills and dedication” of the thousands of people who make the system possible.
Jona D. Hathorn, director of transportation for Clovis schools, said the main reason for the week’s observance “is just to make the public aware of school buses on the road, to keep an eye on the kids and to remind people of what’s happening in their surroundings.”
Hathorn suggested it was a good opportunity for passing on safety tips to students.
“It’s a good learning tool for youngsters to remind them of the school bus rules and get them started into the school year right,” she said.
Cory Adair, manager of Adair Inc., the school bus contractor for Clovis schools, said public awareness is critical.
“We’re trying to make people aware of safety issues,” he said.
“It’s everyone’s concern,” said Melissa Ward, assistant manager for Adair Inc.
“Not just the parents and the kids, but everybody on the street,” Adair said. “The state of New Mexico requires a separate lane for buses at each school, so we request parents and other visitors to respect those lanes. It’s for the children’s safety.”
For school bus drivers, one of the primary safety issues concerns “kids’ behavior,” said Tom Dane, a four-year bus driver with Adair Inc.
“They’re a big distraction,” he said. “On the bus, we have certain rules they need to keep, such as sitting in the seat and talking in a normal voice. None of it ever happens. When you spend most of your time looking in the big overhead mirror, you can’t focus on your driving.”
“Kids think the school bus is a big playhouse,” said Diane Cunningham, an 18-year bus driver.
Another safety issue concerns motorists not observing the school buses’ warning lights and stop sign when picking up and letting off children.
“In New Mexico, it’s a law that people should stop when the stop sign comes out and the red lights start flashing,” Cunningham said.
Anna Mosher, a 16-year bus driver, agreed.
“We have too many people passing us with our stop sign out and flashing reds on,” she said. “It’s dangerous for children.”
Adair also suggested another concern parents need to observe.
“If their children missed the bus at the bus stop, parents shouldn’t be following the bus and dropping their kids off to catch the bus whenever the bus stops,” he said. “Just because the bus is stopped, it doesn’t mean it’s a designated bus stop. We can’t have kids running around the bus and in front of the bus. It’s dangerous.”
Hathorn also mentioned that as a potential danger.
“The biggest safety concern is what they call the danger zone,” she said. “If a bus is stopped, kids must be at least 10 steps away from the bus. If they’re within those 10 steps, the bus driver can’t see them. We’re trying to educate kids about that.”
Ten rules to teach children about school bus safety
1. Wear bright clothes so the bus driver can easily see you.
2. Line up quietly at the bus stop, without pushing or yelling.
3. Stay away from the curb or road until the bus driver stops and signals it’s safe to get on.
4. Stay out of the school bus danger zone — that’s the area 10 feet around the bus on all sides.
5. Use the handrails to get on and off the bus.
6. Obey the bus driver and stay quietly in your seat; no fighting or shouting.
7. Keep aisles clear. Put your belongings under your seat or keep them on your lap.
8. Never throw anything inside the bus or out the windows.
9. Don’t stick your head, hands or legs out the windows.
10. If you need to cross the street, do so in front of the bus — never behind it — and wait until the bus driver sees you.
— Provided by Clovis schools