FRANKFORT, Ky. — As a new school year approaches, Kentucky motorists will see reminders across the state to watch out for stopped school buses.
Last week, approximately 45 billboards started going up that warn of the danger in passing a stopped school bus. The billboards feature an extended stop arm on the side of a school bus with the words, “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, it could be a matter of life or death for a child. I call on all Kentuckians to be especially cautious around school buses, not just at the beginning of the school year, but anytime they approach these big yellow vehicles.”
The billboard space is being donated by Lamar Advertising Co. of Lexington, Outfront Media of Louisville, and Fairway Outdoor Advertising in eastern Kentucky. The Kentucky Department of Education is paying for the printing and installation.
The billboards are part of a Bus Safety Back to School Campaign undertaken by the Kentucky Department of Education. The campaign website features additional school bus safety resources, including a school bus safety pledge, coloring pages, and tips for parents.
According to a 2016 survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services of more than 96,000 school bus drivers in 33 states, drivers recorded 74,421 vehicles illegally passing a stopped school bus.
In the 2014-15 school year, 75% of the school bus loading and unloading fatalities occurred when a student was hit by a passing vehicle, according to the annual National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey. While Kentucky has not recorded any such fatalities, bus drivers often see drivers illegally passing their buses as children attempt to get on and off the bus.
In Kentucky, it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus in either direction on a two-lane road if the warning lights on the bus are on.
More than 385,000 children in Kentucky ride some 9,855 school buses each day.