EUREKA - “These are young kids that often times don't hold safety to the same regard that adults do and they're not always watching out for their own safety. So we have to do that as a community,” Officer Matt Harvey, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol, said.
October 20 through 24 is National School Bus Safety Week and the North Coast is on board.
“This is an opportunity we take every year with the highway patrol and the school districts and Department of Motor Vehicles to educate the public about school bus safety: how to keep our children safe around school buses and also, as the motoring public, to be safe around school buses,” Officer Harvey said.
There are a number of components to school bus safety. One aspect is the drivers. Linda Wilson, the school bus driving instructor for Eureka City Schools, says California school bus drivers are the most trained drivers on the road.
“To become a school bus driver, you're required to have 40 hours of training and that consists of 20 hours classroom instruction-a minimum of and also a minimum of 20 hours behind the wheel instruction,” Wilson said.
And a good driver is nothing without a properly functioning bus. The CHP annually certifies school buses through safety inspections. The buses are also checked out by a mechanic every 45 days.
“If there is any kind of safety issues with the bus, it's not going to go out that day. It's not going to go out until the bus is fixed and re-inspected. Because we have in some cases several students on board. And it's really important that we keep them safe on the roadways every single time, 100% of the time,” Officer Harvey said.
And it’s a two-way street. School bus safety also depends on the cooperation of other drivers on the road.
It is a law in the state of California that motorists slow down when they see flashing yellow lights and stop when they see flashing red lights.
And of course, the students are a critical piece in school bus safety. Tuesday morning, the Eureka City School District held evacuation drills at elementary schools to insure kids have the tools to be safe too.
“We are transporting the most precious cargo. We don't ever want to hurt anyone else’s kid. We want all of our students to always feel safe. We want parents to always feel that their children are in good hands when they get on a school bus,” Wilson said.