It was 15 years ago this year when Raylene Morgan of White Hall had the scare of her life. She was driving behind a car that passed a stopped school bus letting children off at the side of the road.
“I just knew I had seen a child killed,” Morgan said. “But it turns out that the car had hit some trash in the road and sent it flying in the air. My heart stopped.”
Even though no one was injured, the car broke the law by passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing. Morgan says these days she spends her time trying to promote school bus safety.
She isn’t alone. With area schools starting on Monday, Aug. 13, the state’s campaign on bus safety is in full swing.
To help build school bus safety awareness, the Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas Association of Pupil Transportation and Arkansas School Bus Mechanics Association are teaming up to launch the sixth annual Flashing Red. Kids Ahead. school bus safety campaign.
What had been a three-week campaign has been expanded to the entire month of August, according to a news release.
“As the 2018-2019 school year begins, about 350,000 youngsters around Arkansas will be boarding one of about 7,000 school buses every day,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the release.
“Once again, the Department of Education is rolling out its bus-safety campaign. Flashing Red. Kids Ahead. rolls easily off the tongue and is an easy-to-remember slogan. When you see the flashing red lights on a stopped school bus, that means children are crossing the street, and state law requires drivers to stop. We owe our children a future, and one of the most basic contributions to their future is to ensure that they get to school and back home safely. Flashing Red. Kids Ahead. Easy to say. Vital to remember,” Hutchinson said.
Jerry Owens is the senior transportation manager at the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation.
“School bus safety is important throughout the entire year,” Owens said. “It is important for all motorists to know that it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing. Remember: Flashing Red. Kids Ahead.”
In April, more than 3,200 Arkansas school bus drivers reported more than 850 instances of motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus in one day.
“Through the Flashing Red. Kids Ahead. campaign, our goal is to educate all motorists about the importance of obeying all traffic laws, including those involving school buses,” Owens said. “The safety of our students depends on it.”
This year’s Flashing Red. Kids Ahead. campaign will feature information such as sample press releases districts can use to tailor the program for their area, handouts and brochures that feature safety tips for parents, videos and a link to the law regarding bus safety, according to the release.
“Everyone is encouraged to be a part of the 2018 campaign by posting videos and pictures that promote school bus safety on social media using #2018FlashingRed,” according to the release.
For Morgan, school bus safety will always be a top priority.
“After what I saw those years ago, I will never, ever stop promoting school bus safety,” she said. “Lives are at stake.”