A school bus driver in a small Massachusetts town, evidently alarmed at motorists blowing past the stopped bus despite flashing warning lights and the presence of children, took matters into her own hands with an unusual maneuver.
When the unidentified driver stopped to take on or drop off schoolchildren, she positioned the bus on a diagonal across the roadway so as to block traffic in both directions. A motorist took a picture of the maneuver this month, posted it to a local website, and a controversy was born.
The debate snowballed in the small town (population 8,963) not long after a series of deadly school bus-related accidents around the nation, including a fatal crash in Rochester, Ind., that killed three children. The 24-year-old woman charged with their deaths pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide last week, RochesterFirst.com reported.
In Sutton, the local police department was asked to weigh in on the unidentified bus driver and her unusual safety maneuver through its Facebook page. Police were initially supportive.
“It’s a frustrating fact that motorists have become increasingly distracted, and at times do [not] obey the law regarding stopping for a school bus,” the department’s posting said. “With that being said, if positioning a school bus in this fashion causes motorists to stop, and a child to safely board or disembark their school bus, we’re in favor of it.”
Others on social media agreed. A person who identified herself as a bus driver wrote that she knew the maneuver was illegal but did it anyway: “ . . . we would and sometimes do these crazy maneuvers to prevent our children from getting hit, [it’s] crazy we have to resort to this ...... but know we care for your children and [that’s] the bottom line."
But some complained, and some wondered if the maneuver might not be counterproductive. “I’m all for keeping our kids safe but doesn’t she have to follow the rules of the road?” asked one.
It turns out the maneuver is illegal. After doing some additional research, police found a state law saying school buses must pull over to the side when taking on or discharging passengers, the online Telegram & Gazette of Worcester reported.
Lt. Dave Perry said he understood why the bus driver took the action. It’s horrifying how often drivers blitz right past stopped school buses, even with the flashing lights on, he said.
“You would think that the average motorist would almost consider that that’s like sacred — like that’s something that you would not violate because of the extreme danger involved for children,” Perry said in an interview. “I think part of the problem is you have a lot of distracted drivers out there now, in addition to aggressive drivers who, particularly during commute hours, are in a rush.”
Perry said he applauded the bus driver’s intentions, but not the strategy. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to change the law to allow the maneuver, either. Stopping the bus on a diagonal across both lanes of traffic could create other dangers. Motorists in oncoming vehicles, particularly those on a curve, might not see the school bus sticking into the lane until it’s too late to stop, he said. Vehicles following the school bus might be confused and think it‘s about to turn. But he said public officials and the motoring public need to do something.
“It’s a common problem. You can see it,” Perry said. “I you look at the research, it’s a nationwide problem, really.”
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