Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Stop Arm

Next to commercial air travel riding on a school bus may be the safest form of transportation in the U.S. An average of 20 students die each year in school transportation related traffic accidents. Of those, only 5 die while on the bus. The rest loose their lives, as pedestrians coming to or away from the bus. Compared to the 50,000 teenage driving deaths in the U.S. each year, some of which are students driving to and from school, this is an amazing low number.

This enviable safely record is in no small part due to the many rules related to school bus transportation. Not the least of these is the stop arm and related flashing lights. It is a misdemeanor to pass a stopped school bus with red lights flashing in either direction if there is no raised median between you and the bus. A misdemeanor is when you go before a judge and he decides if you pay a lot of money, a really lot of money, or just go to jail and not on a school bus. People pass my stop arm every day, sometimes five or six at a time.

Mesa was laid out by the Mormon Fathers with wide streets. Some have four traffic lanes and some have six traffic lanes with a center turn lane and bicycle lanes next to the curb. If it weren’t for the power lines and the cars you could comfortably land medium sized aircraft on many of the streets. If my brother John lived near Mesa I’m sure, he would have taken advantage of these many landing opportunities and not be confined to the freeways and fields of Idaho. It is understandable that cars approaching a stopped bus with five traffic lanes between them and the bus feel little need to stop.

There is a form that we can fill out with the cars license #, description of the car, time of day, and give it to the police. The state supposedly sends the driver a stern warning. I go for more instant gratification with stop arm runners. I wait till they get right alongside of the bus and then I apply the air horn. People react in different ways to this bugle mounted on the side of the bus they have just passed. Some quickly bring the vehicle to a stop, several hundred feet ahead of the bus and wait for you to unload the students. Nice effort….. Some tap their brakes, so that you can see their brake lights as they go by as some sort of acknowledgment, that they will for sure, stop at the next bus they come to. Others just honor you with a one-fingered salute.

Three examples of recent stop arm runners;

The Three Car Three Bus Slalom

One morning as I am approaching my Mckellips and Stapley pick up, I lit up the bus with no less than two sets of stop lights, four overhead flashing reds and two flashing reds on the stop arm. This morning two other bused approach me coming the opposite direction as I came to a stop. They of course stop and turn on their flashing overhead amber lights. Not to be deterred by this wattage three cars sped between all three of these forty-footers. I went for my on my air horn, and the buses across the street used their regular horns. I think some stopped cars even joined in with their horns. This had to be like driving though a pumpkin patch at Christmas time with a band playing. I feel sure someone in one of those cars said “What’s the deal with those big yellow trucks and their flashing lights and horns”?

The Mormon Mommy

Now I’m just guessing on this one, but she was driving a Tahoe full of kids. Maybe she was just the neighborhood Den Mother. This is my only stop where students could walk in front of the bus even though they do not. This ‘sister’ approached the bus slowly as we where in her neighborhood and then she drove right under the flashing stop arm while talking on her cell phone. I gave her the benefit of my “busy mothers in Zion pass” and did not use the air horn on her.

The Riding Lawn Mower

Val Vista & McClellan 3:05 P.M./ Four lanes / Busy street / My longest student stop/ Fifteen students get off. I watch for them here, as it is the number one place for stop arm runners on my route. Most of them come from behind, but not this day. This day it came unexpectedly from the front. A man on a riding lawn mower was coming towards me at full speed [5mph] across the street in the bicycle lane. As he got across from me he seemed confused as to what the rules were with riding lawn mowers and stopped buses. Not to take a chance he brought the mower to a full stop. I smiled and waved to him.

Happy driving, Mr. “B”