Back to school means back to extra roadway safety

Josh Harville jharville@empiretribune.com
Scott May, Somervell County justice of the peace and a 10 year veteran school bus driver, says he drives kids just for fun.

Monday marked the beginning of yet another school year, and that means another year of majestic yellow road whales - otherwise known as school busses - on the streets of Glen Rose and Somervell County.

Not only are there road signs depicting rules and regulations near school zones to increase awareness and safety for the children, the busses the children travel in also have a set of rules, regulations, codes and conducts travelers must adhere to as well.

"When someone sees that yellow bus, they automatically know that we're transporting precious cargo," said Scott May, a bus driver for over 10 years and also the justice of the peace for Somervell County. "They just need to be extra cautious when they're driving around it, make sure they're staying within the speed limit, and they're not texting."

The Texas Department of Transportation's website, provides sound - and detailed - advice on the subject, as well as a few eye opening statistics.

"Last year, 663 vehicles crashes occurred in school zones in Texas, resulting in zero deaths and 21 serious injuries," the website reads. "August and September of 2014 alone saw 107 crashes in school zones. The most common factors contributing to these crashes were driver inattention, failure to control speed and failure to yield the right of way at stop signs."

In May's 10 years of experience behind the big wheel of a bus, he notes that one of the biggest issues is other motorists "passing the school bus" illegally or unsafely, and reiterated that drivers need to know "when they can pass, and when it is illegal to pass." 

"They can pass a school bus at anytime when the traffic lanes make it legal," according to May. "The thing we run into in Somervell County is that the [areas to pass] are short, and the double yellow lines means you can't [pass]. Also, when the school bus stops and they've got their blinking red lights on, whether you're behind them or you're coming towards them, you have to stop. That's one of the biggest things that we find people that are coming towards us do not stop when we're stopped to let kids on and off."

To reiterate on May's comments, when a school bus is stopped, has its "STOP" sign extended and its red flashing lights activated, ALL traffic - coming and going - must stop. 

"[Drivers] need to be careful and understand that children are not watching for cars," May said. "When they jump off that bus, they're going."

State laws for school buses not only sets guidelines for other motorists on the road, but also sets top speeds the busses may travel - something May asks for understanding with.

"We're doing our jobs too," he said. "The speed limit for a bus is 50 miles an hour, so when we're out on Highway 67 and [the motorists] are lining up and get agitated that we're going so slow, legally a bus can only go 50 mph when it's loaded with children. We're going to be going a little bit slower than normal traffic, just be patient with us and give us a few minutes and we'll get out of your way."

When sharing the road with a school bus remember that the bus can only legally go 50 miles per hour, if it stops, has extended its "STOP" sign and has activated its red flashing lights, then ALL traffic must stop as well. If you must pass a school bus, pass it safely and legally, and most importantly, remember that the bus is carrying quite a bit of precious cargo.