What is the largest mass transit system in the United States? Airplanes? Nope. Trains? Uh uh. Commercial buses? Not at all. The largest mass transit system in the country is the yellow school bus – with over 480,000 buses transporting 25 million students nationwide each day during the school year. That surpasses airlines, trains and commercial buses combined.

In Iowa, schools transport 223,556 students to and from school every school day.

As the school buses return to the roads this week, drivers are once again urged to practice caution when approaching a school bus.

“There are over 4,500 school buses out on the road any given school day (and another 1,500 vehicles used as buses) driving over 200,000 miles each day throughout the state,” said Iowa Department of Education Consultant Max Christensen. “They travel almost 52 million miles per year transporting students in Iowa. The sheer number of buses – and miles driven – increase the odds of having problems.

"As we move into a new school year, be sure to pay special attention to the big yellow school buses rolling down the road. Those buses are transporting our most precious cargo – our children.”

Here are some reminders for drivers:

  • When the bus’s yellow flashers turn on, that signifies that it is preparing to have a child get on or off the bus. All vehicles behind the bus must slow down and stay behind the bus, and then come to a complete stop when the red flashers turn on.
  • If you are approaching a bus from the opposite direction, slow your speed to 20 mph when the bus turns on its yellow flashers.
  • On a two-lane road, traffic in both directions must come to a full stop when the lights are flashing red.
  • On a four-lane road, traffic moving in the opposite direction must slow down and proceed with caution when either red or yellow flashers are present. Traffic moving in the same direction must slow down and stay behind the bus when the yellow flashers are present, and then stop when the red flashers are present.
  • Stop your vehicle at least 15 feet from the bus.
  • Remain stopped until the flashing lights are turned off and the stop arm is pulled back in.
  • Failure to comply could result in heavy fines plus court costs.

Here are reminders for students:

  • Stop and look both ways before crossing a street.
  • Make sure your bus driver can see you when you are crossing in front of the bus. If you can't see the driver, the driver can’t see you.
  • Never cross behind the bus.
  • When getting on or off the bus, never cross the street until the bus driver signals it’s OK to cross.
  • If you drop something near the bus, do not pick it up. Instead, tell the bus driver what you dropped, and let the driver instruct you on what to do.

“Do your part by paying attention and driving slowly and cautiously when near a school bus,” Christensen said. “A child's life may depend on it."

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