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posted: 8/21/2013 10:33 AM

Editorial: Drivers need back-to-school reminders, too

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  • Police crackdowns have helped in the past to stem violators who drive through the stop arm of school buses.

    Police crackdowns have helped in the past to stem violators who drive through the stop arm of school buses.

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's Back to School time, but you don't have kids and you aren't going to school yourself. In other words, it doesn't affect you, right?

Wrong. Back to school reminders are needed for everyone, not just parents and students.

Specifically, drivers throughout the suburbs need to remind themselves to slow down and plan for longer commutes as the roads get busy with school buses and the sidewalks around schools get busy with children.

It really should go without saying, but we are reiterating it here because suburban bus drivers told our transportation writer, Marni Pyke, in a story Monday that careful is not always the preferred mode of driving near a school bus.

"One of my bus stops is on Irving Park Road in Wood Dale and -- I kid you not -- at least twice each day one or more vehicles go through my stop arm," Mike Nilson, a Fenton High School bus driver, told Pyke. "I sometimes wonder if it is because people are in so much of a hurry that they don't care, or if it is that people are not taught the proper procedure on what to do."

We applaud Nilson for giving these dangerous drivers the benefit of the doubt. But ignorance is not a defense.

If offending drivers need a refresher, they can download the 2013 Illinois Rules of the Road from the Illinois secretary of state website at The rules are simple -- stop for a school bus if it is loading or unloading passengers. Do not go through the stop arm when it is out. All cars both ways must stop on a two-lane roadway. On a four-lane roadway where a bus is stopped in the opposite direction, drivers are not required to stop.

"I've had drivers come to a stop at my stop arm then proceed to go through it as if it were a stop sign at an intersection," Nilson said.

That's maddening. And yet statistics show it's common. And the more it's done, the more likely a child is going to get hurt.

Pyke reports that on a one-day survey in Illinois, with 310 buses participating statewide, 92 violations were counted. The violations were almost evenly split between morning and afternoon, with a majority of violations caused by cars from the front. Nationwide, there were 85,279 violations in the 29 states that participated.

"It's always on our radar screen and always a concern for our drivers. That's why we work in partnership with our police departments and provide training for our (bus) drivers," said John Heiderscheidt, Elgin Area School District U-46's safety and security coordinator.

As more children go back to school today and the rest of this week and next, we encourage police departments to show their presence and, if necessary, enforce the safety laws near buses and schools. Drivers get used to not slowing down during the summer as they pass schools; they must be reminded it's not acceptable during the school year.

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