Slow down and pay attention

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

With area public schools preparing to start the new year on Tuesday, Suffolk’s school administrative offices took advantage of the heightened awareness to remind motorists this week about the law concerning stopped school buses.

It’s worth repeating here: If a school bus is stopped with red flashing lights and an extended stop sign, there’s a good chance you’re required to stop, whether you’re behind the bus, headed in the same direction or in an oncoming lane. The only exception to the rule is for oncoming traffic on a divided highway with a barrier or grass median.

Not only can ignoring the law have potentially deadly consequences, it can be extremely costly for a driver to do so, as Virginia charges six demerit points for those convicted of ignoring a stopped school bus. Court costs, fines and increased insurance premiums make such a conviction a budget buster.

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While we’re on the topic, the National Safety Council offers a few more tips for safely sharing the road with buses.

4When driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. You’ll have more room to stop when the bus driver turns on the flashing lights prior to a bus stop.

4If the yellow lights are flashing, the red ones are probably about to start. Just as with a traffic light, yellow lights mean to slow down, use caution and prepare to stop.

4The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Be sure to leave them space to enter and exit the bus when it stops.

4Children can be unpredictable, and they’re not good at assessing dangers. They also tend to take risks. So stay alert.

4Don’t text and drive. In the few seconds you spend glancing down at your screen, the bus ahead could stop, or a child could run from a nearby yard. The text can wait.

Slow down and pay attention. A child’s life could hang in the balance.