COOS COUNTY — School bus employees are reminding drivers to be aware of traffic laws to ensure students enter and exit buses safely.
According to Dennis Goodwin, the location safety manager at First Student Bus Company, bus drivers around the county witness at least one “red light” violation a day on their routes.
“People forget or don’t realize that on a four-lane highway, if it doesn’t have a physical barrier between its two roads, that everyone is required to stop,” Goodwin said.
A “red light” violation or “running a red” occurs when a driver passes alongside a school bus while its lights are flashing and/or its stop sign is extended out.
Following protocol, school bus drivers are tasked with reporting violations to their supervisors or directly to law enforcement by giving them the license plate number and a description of the driver who committed the illegal pass.
As of now, neither the Coos Bay nor the North Bend School Districts have received any formal complaints from school bus employees or community members on drivers committing such violations.
However, Goodwin is joined by fellow manager Becki Mascarenas and Mid Columbia Bus Company manager Debbie Slaughper who all agree the violations are a consistent problem within the county.
Earlier this spring, Goodwin said its bus company participated in an annual survey by the Oregon Department of Education, which called on drivers throughout the state to track the number of red light violations it saw in a one-day count.
According to Goodwin, about 32 violations of illegal school bus passing were counted during that April survey with a majority of violations occurring on Newmark Avenue and Ocean Boulevard in Coos Bay.
“Our drivers always have a hand on the horn just in case a car passes by they’ll honk it signaling for kids to run back to the curb,” Goodwin said. “Most of the time (bus drivers) are paying attention to kids as they load and unload from the bus which makes it hard for them to take full descriptions of violators.”
In North Bend, Slaughper said drivers with routes on Broadway Avenue and Highway 101 also see a high volume of violations. As a result, she said its drivers’ will wait for traffic to stop and then signal students when they can safely exit and cross the bus.
“It’s a problem,” Slaughper said. “We do have the North Bend Police Department that comes in and works with us. They get copies of my routes and do park in those problem areas.”
Coos Bay Police Cpt. Chris Chapanar said he recently checked in with local dispatchers and officers to see if its department had received an increased number of reports on illegal school bus passes.
“We’re not seeing an increase or influx of these being called in or reported,” he said. “Bus drivers are trained if this happens to generally jot down a license plate if they can get it and then contact us.”