There’s been a reduction in school bus stops in the Highland school district this year, a cost-saving measure also touted as being safer for children and easier on other drivers. However, highway superintendent Richard Klotz isn’t so sure about the safety part. He was asked about it by town board member Joseph Mazzetti, who said he’s gotten calls from concerned residents about schoolchildren walking along town roads to their bus stops.
“Town roads have no shoulders,” Klotz noted. They’re the legal-minimum 20-foot-wide rural roads that don’t have any safe place for pedestrians. In explaining the 27 percent reduction in stops to the school board last month, district transportation director Doug Carter had partially justified the change by saying that nine out of ten bus fatalities occur during loading and unloading, figuring therefore that a reduction in the number of stops would result in increased safety.
Buses stopping at every driveway can be be frustrating to other drivers, and it also adds to the length of bus trips, which in the Highland district can be as much as 50 minutes one way for some students. Parental worries over behavior problems on buses tend to rise in direct proportion to the length of that trip.
The state standard is for bus stops to be from one to two-tenths of a mile apart, but some in the Highland district were as little as 25 yards apart. That’s hard on bus passengers and other motorists, and it’s hard on the drivers, because they’re supposed to flip on the amber warning lights 100 yards ahead of each stop. With the new configuration, more than 95 percent of students will have a stop within two-tenths of a mile, but that could as much as double the prior year’s distance. Most reductions were made in cases like those consecutive driveways, or by asking students to come to the end of their dead-end road.
While Klotz didn’t think it was safe to ask people to walk along town roads, Carter last month told district trustees that family members should be expected to take responsibility to get their children to their stops safely, either by escorting or driving them.