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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Published: 4/11/2005

A big yellow problem

It should go without saying that the safety of school buses in Ohio and the security of the precious cargo they carry must be the utmost priority of school districts and state leaders.

And it's a challenge that school districts in the region are wrestling with since a young Oregon child was struck and killed last month when a car failed to stop for a stopped school bus.

The death of 5-year-old Dameatrius McCreary, after he exited the bus in front of his home on busy Starr Avenue, should never have occurred. If the driver of the car that struck the boy had been driving responsibly and following the rules of the road, the youngster might be alive today.

The driver of Dameatrius' school bus told police she saw cars behind Angelique Dipman's vehicle slowing as they approached the bus, which had its lights flashing and stop sign extended.

Unfortunately, by the time the bus driver realized Ms. Dipman's vehicle was not going to stop, her frantic attempts to save the small child were futile.

Sadly, drivers can't always be relied upon to follow the law. They speed. They run red lights. Sometimes they ignore school buses. That makes a precautionary fallback policy imperative for school districts.

The easiest approach: require that under no circumstances, at least on an undivided two-lane thoroughfare, should a school bus door be opened to discharge a passenger until all traffic has stopped in both directions.

Of course, at some point, human judgment has to come into play. If the only approaching vehicle is still, say, half a mile away, is it an unreasonable delay to wait for it to arrive and stop? And what if yet another vehicle then emerges in the distance?

Requiring drivers to pick up and drop off youngsters only on their side of the street would help, but that would require two passes through the same neighborhood and add considerably to the route's drive time.

Another option would be to assign a parent or other adult volunteer to ride each bus and safely marshal kindergarten and elementary school children across the road. But with the passage of time would the supply of willing volunteers dwindle?

Even as school districts re-examine their policies, and even as we and others look for possible remedies for a historically dangerous situation, it must not be forgotten that the tragedy in Oregon occurred, at least in part, because the driver of the car was evidently distracted by her cell phone.

As we first noted shortly after the death of the McCreary child, a cell phone can be a menace in the hand of a driver.

While the distractions to a driver are many, and most cannot be legislated, a hand-held cell phone forces a person to drive with one hand. That can be banned, and should. Ohio should waste no more time in joining New York and New Jersey in doing so.



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