Kids in the White Salmon Valley start school Tuesday, Sept. 2, so all you morning commuters need to be aware that school buses will be back on the road, collecting their precious cargo for transport to the first day of classes.
"It's that time again, so we want to get the word out as a reminder," said Sharon Schalk, supervisor of transportation for the White Salmon Valley School District.
Schalk noted motorists traveling in either direction on the area's two-lane roadways -- in the morning or in the afternoon -- must stop when they see the alternating flashing red lights of a school bus. (The fine for passing a stopped school bus with flashing red lights is at least $327. Moreover, a violation of this and related traffic laws could permanently affect a motorist's driving record.)
"They also need to be cautious when they see the yellow lights flashing and children standing on the side of the road," she added.
When a school bus' yellow (or amber hazard) lights are flashing, it means the bus is about to stop to load or unload students. Motorists are advised to use caution, slow down and be prepared to stop.
In some instances, a school bus may pull completely off the road to load or unload students. When this occurs, the bus driver will turn on the bus' flashing amber hazard lights as a warning to motorists to slow down and pass with care. (Motorists going in either direction on a two-lane or multi-lane highway aren't required to stop.)
The school district has bus routes all over the White Salmon Valley that serve school- or home-bound children from Bingen, Husum-BZ Corner, Underwood, the Snowden area and Burdoin Mountain.
Buses typically operate between 6:30 to 8 in the mornings, and 2:30 to 4 in the afternoons.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the school bus has been identified as the safest means of transportation in the nation.
Yet, nationwide statistics show that "more children are killed or injured outside a school bus every year than inside one ... and that most of these deaths and injuries occur during daylight hours and in clear weather."
Parents can help protect their children by getting them to their stop on time and ensuring that they are appropriately dressed for the weather and lighting conditions. (When it's dark, dusk or dawn, children should wear light-colored or reflective clothing.)
Parents can also educate themselves and their children about the dangers that exist in the bus loading zone. (The school district's transportation office has brochures that cover school bus safety.)
The so-called "Danger Zone" is a space 10 feet wide all around the bus. When children wander in to that zone -- whether it's before boarding or after exiting the bus -- the driver and other motorists can't see them clearly.
"Our drivers are well-trained and do an excellent job of taking kids to school and bringing them home safely," Schalk said, "but their job becomes a whole lot easier if motorists and children do their jobs too."