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School zones

9/27/2013

With the school year well underway, we would have thought the annual transition for drivers already would have taken place. Apparently not.

Just this week, Hays USD 489 Transportation Director Russ Henningsen told Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler that bus drivers continue to see violations.

The moving traffic violations include speeding through school zones and passing school buses when they're not allowed to do so.

Based on personal observations, we would have to conclude the speeding is not taking place near Hays High School. The combination of road construction on 13th Street and the regular presence of an occupied squad car generally has traffic there at a snail's pace anytime close to school starting or letting out.

But at every other school in town, and likely throughout the region, many motorists are ignoring the rules of the road.

As a public service reminder, penalties for committing moving offenses near buses or in school zones are higher by design. There are children involved, and their safety potentially is compromised by inattentive or uncaring drivers.

There are pentagon-shaped signs to mark every school zone and student crosswalk. Signs have a yellow background with a black border and black legend. Often, they're accompanied by flashing yellow lights. Those same lights are utilized with speed limit signs so drivers know when to follow any designated slower zones.

Any motorist encountering a school bus (again, conveniently painted yellow for easy identification) needs to pay close attention. You cannot pass a school bus from either direction if the bus either has its flashing red lights going or its stop signal arm extended. As a warning, bus drivers activate warning lights that are amber-colored prior to turning on the red flashing lights -- much the same way a yellow light precedes red on a stoplight.

Motorists are not allowed to proceed until the flashing red lights and the stop signal arm are no longer activated, or until the bus resumes motion.

The concept is simple to understand, but for some apparently difficult to accomplish. Any child's safety should be enough motivation, but perhaps the court's effect on one's pocketbook might help. First convictions result in a $100 fine, plus court costs of $70. Repeat offenders run the risk of being reminded that driving is not a right, it's a privilege. And privileges may be revoked.

It's been more than 30 years since a new school was built in Hays. All drivers should know the rules of the road. We believe it's either inattention or somehow one's lateness is rationalizing breaking the law.

So remember, it's not merely a speeding violation or improper passing. Children's lives could be at-risk. Let's keep it safe.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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