March 5, 2007
Reported by: Britney Glaser
In Beauregard Parish, two-thirds of the school bus routes are in rural areas, which presents a number of obstacles not only to the drivers of the buses, but also to the students crossing areas of highway with little visibility.
Life in the country is typically lived at a little slower pace, but on the roads, vehicles are living in the fast lane. When it comes to school bus stops on these rural roads, major safety concerns arise.
Roberta Ciccarelli of Dry Creek is a mother of five, and all of her kids ride the school bus each day. In front of the Ciccarelli's house where the children wait for the bus, there are reminders on the road of the dangers that lurk on rural bus routes. "There's skid marks up and down the road...you can see where the trucks have not been able to get stopped because they come flying through that corner," says Roberta.
Although there are school bus stop signs prior to some areas of poor visibility, many motorists do not heed these warning signs until the last second, forcing them to slam on the brakes.
Kay Fox of Dry Creek is a mother of three and she can vividly remember the day that could have turned tragic in front of her children's bus stop. "An 18-wheeler actually drove around the school bus and had they walked into the path," says Fox, "they would have been hit."
In Beauregard Parish, students are taught the most important rules in loading and unloading the school bus. Logan Fox is a student at East Beauregard Elementary and he says, "You have to look at the bus driver in case she says 'stop or go,' and even if she says 'go,' you still have to look both ways before you cross."
Transportation Director for Beauregard Parish Schools, Steve Newsom, says, "You spend a lot of time on each bus, training those students to wait on the driver, to be alert, and not to cross in front of the bus without the driver giving the signal."
On HWY 113 in Dry Creek, there are numerous bus stops where 18-wheelers and tractor trailers pass by daily. Also in this area, narrow bridges and curvy roads make it difficult for the bus drivers to know what lies ahead. 25-year veteran bus driver, Molly Cooley, says, "You have to take into consideration what you're meeting, but a lot of times if it's foggy, you don't know what you're meeting, so you just have the grace of God that they're going to be okay."
There is a law in Louisiana (Statute 32:80) that allows bus drivers to write down the license plate number of a motorist that goes around the cross-arms of a stopped school bus. The penalty for this action can result in a hefty fine and the loss of driving privileges for up to one year.