Saturday, November 22, 2008

The day I'm glad I dropped my school books

The other day a caller growled for a good 10 minutes about what a waste of time and money "Operation Bus Stop" is.

That's the program in which law enforcement officers watch for and ticket motorists who ignore the stop signs and flashing red lights of school buses.

He wasn't the first to complain, and I'm sure he won't be the last. But as I listened to him talk, I couldn't help but reflect on a day from my childhood - when dropping my school books may well have saved a life or two.

I grew up on a farm next to a state highway three miles from the nearest town. We rode to school on a bus that either picked us up before sunrise or minutes before classes started, depending on which route schedule we were on.

On this particular day, we would be the last children off the bus - my sister Trish, my twin brother Steve and I - as our bus driver halted on K-156 in front of our driveway and pulled the handle that drew the stop sign out from the side of the bus. My brother and sister bounded down the steps, but my elbow bumped a bench seat and I dropped my school books.

I hurried to pick them up, feeling guilty about delaying the bus driver. I hurried down the steps, turned the corner to the front of the bus to catch up to my siblings ---- and a car raced past the bus heading east as if the stop sign wasn't even there.

"Why'd he do that?" I remember thinking.

"Are you all right?" our bus driver shouted, shaken by what had just happened.

We were fine. But later I wondered how things might have been different if I hadn't dropped my books or my brother and sister hadn't waited for me next to the bus.

We never did learn the identity of the driver who ignored the stop sign and blew right past us. But our bus driver was so upset about what happened that from then on he would not drop students off on the highway. He drove into farm yards and let us off by our gates or back doors, just to eliminate the possibility that another vehicle could ignore a bus' stop sign and race on past.

That's not an option everywhere, however, so I understand the need to conduct programs to remind drivers to obey those flashing lights and activated stop signs - because too many people treat them as recommendations, not laws.

And that could kill a child some day.

1 comment:

  1. Scary thought. Those programs wouldn't be in place if there wasn't a problem. It's too bad some people can't understand that.