That red flashing stop sign on school buses means ‘stop,’ say police

Note: This column appears in the 4/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/16 issue of the Peoria Times

Last week I mentioned how writing about bad driving is a stale, clichéd, and predictable endeavor. As a result, this will be my second consecutive column about bad driving.

This is however, out of my control. My hand was forced as a result of the news that both Glendale and Peoria will begin –- like, now –- cracking down on motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.

One of the first things that I noticed upon moving here almost three years ago was how the local motorists react when an ambulance or fire truck is on the road with its siren blaring. Drivers in the Valley, rather than simply slow down and drive in a manner that will allow the ambulance or fire truck to pass –- which is what east coast drivers do –- instead come to a complete stop on the road, wherever they are. Even if the emergency vehicle is on the other side of a road that is separated by a median, drivers will stop as if they are doing their just duty as citizens, because emergency vehicles are notorious for spontaneously crossing five lanes of traffic and hopping medians at any given moment.

Now obviously I am all for adjusting our driving to allow emergency vehicles a clear path, but the manner in which drivers here abruptly stop –- often unnecessarily -– is a little much and, in my opinion, often dangerous in itself. Still though, the concept is an admirable one.

Which is why it came as a surprise to discover that Glendale and Peoria are now making a more concerted effort to stop motorists who pass stopped school buses. The implication being, of course, that there are motorists who pass stopped school buses.

As a functioning society there should exist rules that go unspoken, even if those rules are, technically, outlined in legal terms anyway. (In this case, the fine for passing a stopped school bus is $646.) That both Glendale and Peoria have taken the initiative to say, “Hey, everyone, let’s try and not run over little children with our motor vehicles, okay?” is a sad testament to society in general, and our local driving culture specifically.

But what really amazes me is the paradox between how drivers react to ambulances and this most recent revelation. In theory, your typical bad Valley driver would run through a school bus stop sign and risk hitting a child, but would alternately do whatever it takes to allow the ambulance that is carrying that child to the hospital to pass.

The program to stop these drivers started last week and includes police officers actually riding school buses and alerting road officers to the passing culprits. Again, this is a program –- a concerted effort –- to stop drivers who pass stopped school buses. Because that is what it has come to. That it is a program means that is has a beginning and an end, and this one ends at the conclusion of this school year. So, schoolchildren entering and exiting school buses in the year 2011 do so at their own risk.

Personally? I would ask my mom for a ride.

Or, ya know...go.


Anonymous said…
Arizona is home to THE worst drivers I have ever experienced in my life. Yesterday a woman blew a red a school zone...while the crossing guard was crossing children!!
Wilmer Geraci said…
This is a really great project. Children have the right to cross the street safely, too! It's quite ironic, that point you presented there about motorists giving way to ambulances but not to people. It might be a good idea to put stop signs on school buses, but that would cost a lot. That program will do for now, I guess.