The deadly crash at an Indiana school bus stop that left three kids dead and one injured reminded bus driver Steve Stull that accidents can happen anywhere.
“People don’t understand the responsibility of the bus driver, sometimes. What we got to do and what we’re looking out for,” said Steve Stull, the Miller Motor Company dispatcher for Richland School District.
Stull said drivers go through training every year and they teach kids to be on the lookout for distracted drivers, but you can never be too careful.
“Be ready in case that car doesn’t stop to hit the horn, flash your lights, do whatever you can to let that student know not to cross,” Stull said.
Students need to look both ways before getting on or off the bus and drivers need to be on alert looking out for signals and children.
“Everybody’s distracted. Everybody’s got, you know, a ton of things going on between kids, family, work. When you’re behind the wheel, you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you,” said Officer Todd Miller, the Richland School District resource officer.
The law requires that drivers traveling in both directions must stop for school buses. The only exception is if there’s grass, dirt, or a barrier diving lanes. In that case, drivers behind the bus still need to stop and oncoming traffic needs to proceed with caution.
Students and parents should back away from the road while waiting at bus stops, wear light-colored or reflective clothing and never run on or off the bus.
Since Richland is so commercial and there are lots of intersections, traffic and cars, students are not allowed to walk to school.
“Our routes – by the Department of Education – are considered hazardous routes just because of the sheer traffic volume,” said Richland School District Superintendent Arnold Nadonley. “Nine times out of 10, if not more, it’s the oncoming vehicles on the road that aren’t paying attention and causing problems.”
School officials said that busy roads, distracted drivers and distracted students are the biggest dangers.
The district increased its security: adding cameras, GPS tracking equipment and better radios. They also monitor bus speeds.
Younger students must also have an older sibling or parent meet them at the bus stop.
They said the most important things to remember are: to be alert, back away from the street and always look before crossing a road.
“That’s really what it comes down to: common sense and safety,” Nadonley said.
Stull said being a bus driver is an important job that every driver needs to take seriously.
“You’re looking after 50-60 kids on a bus and everybody expects the kids to come home safe,” said Stull.