An Ode To Bus Safety, as school begins

"The strainht path of Truth the dear Girl's keep their feet in

And ah ! It would do your heart good Cousin Anne

To see them arriving at Gracechurch Street Meeting

All snugly packed 25 in a van."

Undoubtedly the first verse written in praise of the school bus,

– by Joseph Pease, England’s first Quaker MP.

 The world’s first school bus debuted on the streets of a hamlet just north of London, England, in 1827. Its assignment was to transport 25 young ladies to and from the Newington Academy for Girls.

The new Quaker school was an extraordinary innovation in that time of limited educational opportunities for women, and the bus was an unusually large horse-drawn coach. Its door was located in the rear, so that the pupils getting on and off would not spook the horses.

I myself get a little bit spooked this time of year. School bus fleets are hitting the streets of North Carolina after a couple of months idleness in the parking lot, hauling most kids into the 2017-18 school term after their own vacations.

I worry about what’s been forgotten since school let out – not by the youngsters; their minds are sharp as they’ll ever be – but by the motorists meeting up with those buses again after the break. School buses present special safety issues and specific laws on how to navigate around them. The rules seem simple, but having to recall the nuances in a hurry can get tricky.

For instance, just for a quick refresher, these are few basics of North Carolina School Bus Stop Law from a DMV brochure:

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Those four-lane situations tend to catch people off guard. I often see drivers that appear to be confused, slowing to a crawl, not sure whether to stop or roll on. Our knowledge, even though we’ve been accumulating it for years, can get rusty over the summer when we’re not using it.

So as school starts up, I step up my caution level. Every time I take off in my car, I do a little homework of my own and review my rules of the road regarding school buses. All those kids are counting on us to pass our driving test every day, so they can arrive “all snugly packed” like those first 25 girls in their horse-drawn van.

 

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