Keeping Our Children Safe

Thus far this fall, most motorists seem to have heeded warnings intended to safeguard children on school buses, at or near bus stops, in school zones or walking to and from school. But the good safety record was marred Tuesday in Jefferson County, W.Va.

There, a sport utility vehicle driver crashed head-on into a school bus. Both the SUV and bus drivers were injured – and so were six juveniles, all high school students, on the bus. Fortunately, it appears none of the youngsters was hurt badly.

It will require a few days for police to determine just what caused the accident, of course. Almost certainly, however, someone was guilty of negligence.

Tuesday’s accident was a reminder of the importance of paying attention and observing safety rules when driving where children, either riding school buses or walking, may be present. Think about it this way: Speeding and/or not paying full attention to what’s ahead can have serious consequences on rural highways. But the result of a lapse when a school bus, perhaps stopped to unload students, is sharing the road can be far more tragic than in a single-vehicle crash.

Already this year, we have heard of some concerns among school bus drivers in the Ohio Valley. Again, however, no serious accidents have been reported.

That could change in the blink of an eye, as it did in the Eastern Panhandle on Tuesday.

Staying alert, driving cautiously and obeying applicable laws ought to be viewed as a matter of self-preservation by motorists. Again, however, when the safety of our children is linked to drivers’ behavior, much more is at stake.

Law enforcement agencies work closely with school systems to patrol school zones and be on the lookout for drivers who engage in risky behavior such as passing stopped buses. Should school officials become concerned about the number and/or severity of traffic law violations involving students, police and sheriff’s departments should step up their efforts, as they have in the past.

Violators should be punished severely. Again, when the safety of our children is at stake, motorists who knowingly break the law will benefit from no sympathy among Ohio Valley residents.