2009-10-22 / Local & State

PennDOT Honors Students, Drivers At School Bus Safety Awards

PennDOT on Monday recognized 11 students for helping to promote school bus safety and six school bus drivers for their superior driving skills during a ceremony at the state Capitol. The event launched School Bus Safety Week, as proclaimed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

The students, in kindergarten through eighth grade, were honored for their winning entries in the 2009 School Bus Safety Poster Contest. The theme for this year’s contest, “Cross in View,It’s the Right Thing to Do,” stressed the need for students to stay in view of the bus driver and be cautious when a bus is loading or unloading passengers.

“By entering a poster, children have the opportunity to have fun, explore their creativity and, most importantly, help pass on important safety messages to others,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E.

This year’s winners were chosen from more than 800 public and private school student entries.

During the ceremony, Janet L. Dolan, director of PennDOT’s Bureau of Driver Licensing, and Capt. Michael Patrick, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Safety Program Division, also presented certificates and governor’s citations to six school bus drivers for winning the 2009 Pennsylvania School Bus Driver Safety Competition. Held each June, the competition tests school bus drivers’ knowledge of safety rules and safe operation of their buses.

“Parents trust you to take their children to and from school every day – and do it safely,” said Patrick. “Your presence here today is testimony to the extraordinary job you are doing and serves as a model to all school bus drivers.”

Last year’s state winner, Larry Hannon of Centennial School District, and one of this year’s winners, George Soverns of Rittenhouse Bus Lines, were also recognized for placing first and second, respectively, in the 39th Annual International School Bus Driver Safety Competition held in July.

During the ceremony, Patrick also announced that “Operation Safe Stop” will be conducted Oct. 21 to unite local and state law enforcement agencies, school districts and pupil transportation agencies to boost awareness of the consequences of improperly passing school buses. During the operation, police officers will be watching for motorists who violate the school bus stopping law.

State law requires motorists approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended to stop at least 10 feet from that bus. Motorists approaching from all directions are required to stop. However, motorists who encounter a school bus stopping on the opposite side of a divided highway are not required to stop; lanes of a divided highway are clearly separated by a divider such as concrete barriers or grassy medians.

In 2008, nearly 900 motorists were convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law. The same year, there were 380 school bus crashes resulting in three fatalities, including one school bus driver.

For more information about school bus safety, visit Penn- DOT’s highway safety Web site, www.DriveSafePA.org. and select the School Bus Safety link under the Traffic Safety Information Center. In addition, the Web site now offers an interactive feature illustrating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law to help motorists learn what to do when approaching or travelling behind a school bus.

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