School district transportation directors are reminding motorists to be on alert when they encounter a school bus.
Marshall County Schools Transportation Supervisor Dave Smith recognizes that buses can be a nuisance to motorists, but they are necessary to get students safely to and from school.
"School buses mean nothing to some people," he said. "They don't like to follow them and they often pass while students are boarding or exiting."
School bus drivers communicate with students after they get off the bus to ensure their safety.
Smith said there was a close call last year when a driver did not slow down when he passed a bus unloading students. He said he instructs drivers to pull over when a safe spot is available to allow motorists to pass, but there are times when that is not possible.
"Most drivers stop when the buses are unloading, but some get mad or impatient, so they just come around even though the lights are blinking," he said.
Smith said drivers following a bus or approaching it from the opposite direction should remain alert for students who may dart out into traffic. He said students depart the bus on the right and are taught to walk to an area bout 10 feet in front of the bus and near the center of the roadway.
"Drivers watch for traffic in all directions and use a microphone/speaker system to tell students to walk as they exit the bus," he said. "They move to the center line at the left front corner of the bus and the driver tells them to walk again."
Smith said motorists following a bus will see yellow caution lights signaling the bus is getting ready to stop.
Once it stops, red lights go on and the doors open before the students begin exiting.
"Motorists from both directions should remain stopped until all students are clear of the road," Smith said.
In Ohio County, some school buses are equipped with exterior cameras to record violations. Transportation Director Dave Ziegler said the cameras can record drivers as they approach a bus and after passing one.
"We can read the license plate number," he said. "This has become a very good tool allowing us to work with the Wheeling Police Department to identify violations."
Ziegler said half of Ohio County's fleet is equipped with cameras and, as older vehicles are replaced, the new ones will all have a camera. He said all buses are equipped with interior cameras to record students' behavior or any other incident that may require attention.
J.J. Miller, safety advisor for AAA East Central, said cellphone usage could easily become a safety factor around school buses.
"Concentrating on the road and avoiding distractions is the most important advice I could offer drivers," he said. "Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Put down your phone. Make yourself a safer driver and set a good example for young passengers and pedestrians."