The Arkansas Department of Education launched a new theme for this year's school bus safety campaign that calls attention to the state law that prohibits motorists from overtaking a school bus that is loading and unloading students.
B.U.S. Awareness (short for "Be Aware. U stay alert. So kids don't get hurt") was announced on Monday, with the campaign running through Aug. 29. Classes start statewide as early as this coming week. The department is sponsoring the B.U.S. Awareness in conjunction with the Arkansas Association of Pupil Transportation and educators, parents and safety advocates.
"Most of our public school students will be returning to the classroom Aug. 18, which means the yellow school buses will be returning to our streets and highways," State Education Commissioner Tony Wood said. "We want to remind motorists to be especially attentive whenever they are near a school bus. We must all work together to keep Arkansas students safe."
The state law on illegal passing was "drastically" increased in 2005 with Arkansas Act 2128, also known as "Isaac's Law." It is named after Isaac Bryant, an elementary student from Bryant School District in who was hit and killed by a motorist who illegally passed Isaac's school bus during student unloading. Arkansas' law prohibits motorists from passing school buses motorists that are stopped with their red lights flashing and stop arms extended when students load or unload.
Jonathan Crossley, the 2014 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, reminds in a PSA video that the average school bus stops for an average of three minutes. That's a short amount of time for motorists to wait, but "it's enough time for a tragedy to occur."
Meanwhile, Wood said B.U.S. Awareness also seeks to remind students and parents about "simple safety measures" the can use when traveling to and from bus stops, getting on and off the bus and riding on the bus as passengers.
"It also gives us a chance to thank Arkansas school bus drivers and school district transportation directors for their professionalism and hard work," he added.
A sample news release for districts as well as a sample letter and safety tips for parents are available on the Department of Education's website.