ALTON — Bus drivers at Illinois Central School Bus are raising awareness to reduce what bus driver Marla Turner calls “a chronic problem” in school districts … something you may even be doing without being aware.
Stop-arm violations are becoming prominent, so Illinois Central has teamed up with the Alton School District and the Alton Police Department to reduce the number of violations in the district.
“We’re trying to eliminate it,” Turner said. “We don’t want a fatality in our area.”
She says as a whole, Illinois Central drivers are complaining chronically about stop-arm violations.
“I had two in one day last week,” she said. “There are a minimum of 20 stop-arm violations a week (in our area).”
Turner says previously, the process of reporting a stop-arm violation was lengthy and led to a reduced number of violators being caught.
“Bus drivers had to go down to the station to fill out violation reports,” Turner says. “It was very difficult to do.”
Now, a new system will allow drivers to call in violations instead.
More importantly, Turner says the community has aided Illinois Central in a major awareness campaign about the real rules of the road for school buses.
“We initiated a safety campaign about how dangerous these violations are — we are all working together to educate the public,” she said.
It began with Illinois Central School Bus creating a window display at Alton Square Mall, offering specifics regarding the rules of a school bus stop, an example of flashing lights and various pictures of stop-arms in an attractive and eye-catching way.
A 40-inch monitor will display videos about the hazards of stop-arm violations — the same or similar videos, Turner adds, that bus drivers are shown during their learning and refresher courses.
“Alton Square Mall has been very kind in helping us educate people,” Turner said.
Also raising awareness are several businesses getting involved through their electronic signs, including Dan’s Garage Door Service, CNB Bank and Liberty Bank. The entire campaign, according to Turner, is called “STOP,” which stands for Students Take Our Priority.
“And they do,” Turner said. “We can’t stress enough the safety of our children. Safety all around; that’s what we promote.”
Chad Ingold, shop manager and head of bus maintenance for Illinois Central, says there are many misconceptions about whether or not certain lanes of traffic need to stop that cause confusion throughout the Alton School District.
“I think a lot of people need to know that on three-lane roads, even though the kids may not cross, all traffic still has to come to a complete stop,” Ingold said. “We just want people to be vigilant of the school bus and allow students to cross safely. Be patient; make sure all the kids get home safely.”
Wondering what to do during a school bus stop? Here are a few guidelines and tips from Turner:
If you are on a two- or three-lane road, all traffic must stop when the flashing lights come on and the stop-arm extends.
If you are on a four-lane road, then all traffic going the same direction as the bus must stop. Traffic in opposing lanes may continue.
When you are stopped for a school bus, stay back at least 20 feet.
The awareness campaign was started by Sheri Kelley, the senior manager at Illinois Central, as a response to the drivers’ many complaints.
“Somebody had to get the ball rolling,” Turner said. “We’re trying to be preventive. We’re going to continue to work on this.
“The more you talk about it, the more people will realize it’s a problem.”