Students are heading back to school and State and local officials are advising motorists to look out for students and buses as well as changes in traffic patterns. Drivers are also being reminded that it’s still illegal to pass a school bus while loading or unloading.
Burgin Independent students returned to class on Aug. 4 while Mercer students are returning to class on Wednesday, Aug. 11.
“Be watching for our school buses and our kids,” said Mercer Sheriff Ernie Kelty.
Drivers also should be mindful that with classes back in session, traffic patterns will change. No left turns will be allowed on the streets near the schools during certain hours of the day.
“It helps us clear the traffic quicker,” Kelty said. He and his deputies will be out directing traffic. So keep an eye out for them too.
“Our primary goal is the safety of those kids always,” the sheriff said.
According to the state, school zones are designed to slow drivers down when children are likely to be present. Drivers are reminded to obey posted speed limits.
Every day in Kentucky, 9,822 school buses transport over 385,000 students on school buses. Every day, drivers in other vehicles pass school buses while they are loading and unloading students, causing injuries and even death, according to the state.
Drivers should also be aware of the laws that exist when approaching a school bus.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, drivers illegally pass school buses that are loading or unloading students—with some drivers passing on the right side of the bus where students are often present. According to accident reports, more students are injured getting on or off the bus than at any other time during the bus ride.
When drivers see the yellow flashing lights on the bus, that means the bus is going to stop. Drivers should stop too, and not rush to pass the bus.
Red flashing lights mean the bus is stopped to load or unload students. Drivers should stop, wait and not move until the bus moves. In 2020, there were 129 total collisions involving a school bus, resulting in 53 injuries and—thankfully—zero fatalities.
“Laws are not the same in each state and it is important to educate the public of what Kentucky laws are,” said Elisa Hanley, Pupil Transportation Branch Manager at KDE. “Nationally, illegal passing is a problem and education is a big part of the solution.”
“Our goal is for each student to get to school and home safely—not just at the start of school, but every day,” Hanley continued. “It is imperative that drivers use extreme caution around schools and buses to keep all of our students safe.”
To educate drivers on the laws governing bus safety on various road configurations, the state made resources available for download at education.ky.gov/districts/trans/Pages/Back-to-School-Campaign.aspx.