According to the Kansas Department of Education, students who ride buses are most vulnerable to accidents when they are outside the bus in the “danger zone.”
That "danger zone" is near the bus, when it is stopped. Kids are not protected from being hit by a car by anything other than flashing lights and a stop sign that swings out from the side of the bus — things that drivers sometimes ignore.
"School has only been in session eight days and we have already had incidents of people passing stopped school buses," said Sheila Zwahlen, Transportation Director of USD 373. "... It is not bad yet, but it will be if we don't do something about it. I have been emailing (the police department) if we get a tag number. They go to person's home and remind them to stop."According to Kansas law, the driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking any stopped school bus from either direction must stop before reaching the bus when the flashing red lights are in operation. The driver can not move until the school bus resumes motion and the flashing red lights and the stop signal arm is no longer active. "We had Head Start start last week and we have had some people not stop for those buses, and those (students) are just babies," Zwahlen said. To be clear, Head Start students are three and four years old. The Kansas State Department of Education, upon request by the Kansas Highway Patrol, asked school districts across the state to voluntarily take part in a school bus safety awareness project. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness about the illegal passing of school buses. Fifty-seven of Kansas’ 286 school districts volunteered for the 30-day (school days) project. Data was self-reported by districts in early 2017. During that survey, the south central region of Kansas which included Harvey County reported 7,692 violations. The vast majority of those — 7,538, were drivers passing a bus on the left. More than 7,600 violations occurred within city limits. Newton USD 373 also participated in a one-day survey in April. During that survey, which is conducted annually, there were 465 violations for the south-central region that included portions of Harvey, Rice, Barton, Stafford, Pratt, Barber, Harper, Sedgwick, Sumner, Cowley and Butler counties. The annual survey shows violations statewide, violations peaked at more than 1,000 in one day in 2015.