Thomas Gunn, OCSD transportation director, said while school bus tragedies have been on the rise nation-wide, there also have been several instances locally where motorists have knowingly passed stopped school buses.
“Passing the (bus) red lights is a daily occurrence here,” Gunn said, as he showed a stack of reports to be sent to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. “I’d like to heighten (motorists) awareness; they should respect the red lights and stop.”
When a school bus is prepared to make a stop, motorists will see yellow flashing lights, which are indicative of the bus approaching a stop. Once the bus stops, the driver will open the door, which signals the red flashing lights and a “STOP” sign to appear on the driver’s side of the bus. Students then exit or enter the bus and the driver provides enough time for the students to be safely seated before continuing the route.
Gunn said drivers are encouraged to proceed with caution once a bus leaves a stop because there may be children around. Their safety, he said, is one of the district’s top priorities. Gunn said OCSD bus drivers are considerate of motorists and will occasionally pull over when it is safe to do so, to let a long line of cars behind them pass.
OCSD Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey said most Oswego students ride a school bus and he encouraged district residents to particularly err on the side of caution when it comes to driving around the area just before school begins in the morning and in the afternoon when students ride the bus home. He said he is thrilled to continuously work in partnership with the City of Oswego Police Department to ensure safe conditions for students.
Deputy Chief Zachary Misztal said the department actively patrols the roadways throughout the city and monitors traffic to maintain safe roadways for students going to and from school
As a part of the department’s Operation Safe Stop initiative, motorists are reminded that it is illegal and dangerous to pass a stopped school bus when the red lights are flashing. Stops are also required on divided and multilane highways and on school grounds. First-time violations for illegally passing a school bus could carry a $250 fine, five points on the motorist’s license and/or the possibility of 30 days in jail.
“Although we take a lead role in traffic enforcement throughout the city, it is a community effort to maintain safe roadways,” Deputy Chief Misztal said. “We work in conjunction with the OCSD to spread the message of school bus safety for all students traveling to/from school year-round. We also encourage motorists to be alert and practice safe, non-distracting behaviors while driving.”