Across Kentucky, 51 billboards are displaying this image of a school bus stop arm with a safety message for drivers.

Across Kentucky, 51 billboards are displaying this image of a school bus stop arm with a safety message for drivers.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — As a new school year approaches, Kentucky drivers will see roadside reminders to watch out for stopped school buses.

This week, 51 billboards started going up across the state to warn of the danger of passing a stopped school bus. The billboards feature an extended stop arm on the side of a school bus with the message "It's not JUST a stop sign, it's a child's life."

“It is paramount that our children arrive at school and back home safely each day,” said Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky's commissioner of education. “While stopping for a school bus might be a minor inconvenience for drivers, the penalty for passing a stopped school bus can be severe. Drivers can receive a fine, but for a child, it could be a matter of life or death.”

Pruitt urged all Kentucky drivers to be careful around school buses, “not just at the beginning of the school year, but year round.”

Throughout the state, more than 385,000 children ride some 9,855 school buses each day.

In announcing the billboard campaign, the Kentucky Department of Education noted that school bus loading and unloading is the most common time for accidents to occur. Last school year, a vehicle passing a school bus on the right side hit three children waiting at their bus stop in Louisville.

In a statewide survey of illegal passing of stopped school buses in April, 304 incidents were reported to the Kentucky Department of Education.

The billboard reminders, which were also displayed last year, are going up in Lexington, Mt. Sterling, Morehead, London, Georgetown, Frankfort, Versailles, Harrodsburg, Hopkinsville, Paducah, Kenton County, Campbell County, Louisville, Taylorsville, Hazard, Pikeville, and Owensboro. They will be posted for about a month.

The billboard space is provided at a discounted rate by three advertising companies in the state.

The billboards are part of a Kentucky Department of Education back-to-school campaign that includes a website established for school districts. The campaign website offers additional school bus safety resources, including bus safety pledge cards, cutouts, flyers, and coloring pages.

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