A few years ago, I was riding along a fairly busy city street when I came upon a school bus.
I really wasn’t paying the bus too much attention until we had to stop for a traffic light.
I looked on the bus, and there were several students up and running up and down the aisles.
Things were being thrown.
Paper was getting chucked out one of the side windows.
It looked like sheer pandemonium in there.
I had the room, and so I pulled around to see what the driver was up to.
When I finally saw him, I couldn’t believe it.
He had a set of headphones on, and was blowing bubbles — oblivious to the action clearly visible to anyone curious enough to look.
I promptly pulled off the road, got the bus number and contacted the school district.
Most of the students on that bus were elementary school kids — which made it that much scarier.
Of course, I’ve been on several school buses along the way.
In fifth grade, my sister and I were riding a school bus along our normal route. The road we were on this one school day used to be a racetrack, and the road was built over the track itself.
Turning onto that road could be tough for a bus, and the driver would often overcompensate to handle the sharp turn.
This particular day, a hurried driver ignored the bus, and tried to rush by — I say tried, because all he managed to do was drive underneath the back of the bus, causing a crash.
I was happy. No one was hurt, and it meant we were going to be late for school. I was not too fond of my fifth grade teacher — and that’s being nice.
Of course, I must admit that I once was one of those rambunctious elementary school children on the bus.
Again, in fourth or fifth grade, I was riding the bus with my sister, and we were friends with a neighborhood brother and sister, and the four of us sat in the back of the bus.
The girl was my age, the boy my sister’s age.
They were those “bad influences” my mother warned us about.
Many times we’d be in the back, and this girl would offer cars the middle finger when they’d get close.
My sister and I thought it was hilarious, and joined in.
How surprising it was to learn that one of the drivers getting flipped off was my father, who was on his way to work. It must have been quite a sight to see his first-grade daughter giving traffic the single-finger salute.
Especially with his should-have-known-better son sitting right next to her.
Of course, once I got to high school, there was no more of those shenanigans.
I know, because we rode the “Nanner” (as we called it) that was driven by Hardaway Sauls.
Hardaway did not tolerate any wild behavior on the bus — ever.
It was not uncommon for him to stop dead in the middle of the street just to walk the aisles to determine who was risking getting kicked off the bus.
More than one occasion we sat on the side of the road until someone confessed to their alleged offense — he was strict, he was no nonsense, and he was all about safety.
Although, the safety part I never fully realized until I sported my own driver’s license — and with drivers doing crazy things even back then, I fully understood why he was so strict when it came to student behavior on the bus.
On a side note, during the last trip I took on his bus, he talked to me some. It was the first time he ever came across as something more than a bus driver. He asked what my plans were for the future, and wished me luck with whatever I planned to do.
But back to the point.
Safety on the school bus is very important, and parents should be sure to explain to their bus-riding children how necessary it is for them to behave while riding a bus. We’ve all seen the results of a few seconds of distracted driving for someone behind the wheel of a single-passenger vehicle. Imagine how distracting it is for a bus driver who has to keep 20 or more students quiet during a bus commute.
The constant over-the-shoulder glances.
The constant mirror check.
Add to that the twisted country roads throughout the Tri-County, and it could be a recipe for disaster.
And for those folks driving near those often fully-packed school buses? Slow down. Watch for children. A few seconds of being late or a write-up from the boss is nothing compared to the tragic results of running over a school student.
John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org