EUREKA- To promote National School Bus Safety Week the California Highway Patrol has partnered up with local schools along the North Coast to bring awareness about the importance of bus safety. While safety is emphasized this week nationally, it is something local bus drivers say is their number one priority when they get on board.
"Our buses are very safe, they are probably 100 times safer than the family car," said Dan Pires Director of Transportation for Eureka City Schools District.
Piers has been driving Eureka City School buses for almost twenty years and said school bus safety is a two-way street, shared by both the bus driver, and the others drivers on the road, "Our biggest problem typically is not our students, our biggest safety problem is actually the rest of the public," he said.
That is mainly due to a recent law revision in California, Pires said. A few years ago the Stop Arm law changed, before the change, bus drivers were required to activate their flashing red lights and stop sign whenever a child was crossing the street, and since the law changed, a bus driver is now required to activate the red lights whenever loading or unloading students.
"A lot of drivers still do not understand that law, so they pass our buses, and that is how children get run over." If a car fails to stop, he said they not only put themselves in danger, but the child as well,
“Students think that cars are going to be stopped and so they do not necessarily look and they go to run across the street and that is when cars can really injure the child," said Pires.
Nearly one million California students ride on school buses each day and 600 of those students ride on Eureka's City School buses. Before any driver can get behind the wheel however, they endure hours of training.
"It is really intense in California, it is the most intense of any state that we have."
Pires said bus drivers go through 40 hours of training by the Department of Education, in addition to a certification process by the California Highway Patrol, which includes a physical examination, a background check, and a drug test.