In the 2017-2018 school year, 175 drivers in Newton illegally passed stopped school buses, according to USD 373’s transportation department. Director of Transportation Sheila Zwahlen said she estimates that is about 50 more than the previous year.

“Our students’ safety is our department’s number one priority. We want to keep them safe and we can’t do that alone. We need the community’s help,” Zwahlen said

When a school bus activates the amber lights it is a sign to motorists that the bus is about to stop. The lights will change from amber to flashing red lights — and then the stop arm will come out from the side of the bus. According to law, all drivers need to stop from both directions unless there is a physical median like a concrete separator or grass. If there is a physical median, motorists on the opposite side of the median may continue driving.

Motorists should remain stopped until the bus no longer displays its flashing red lights and stop arm.  Failure to stop is a violation of Kansas Law KSA 8-1556 and can carry a fine of more than $420.

"The rule is necessary to keep children safe when they get on or off the bus or cross the street. Bus drivers are trained to leave the arm out until children are in their yard,". Zwahlen’s said.

Zwahlen said the goal fo Newton drivers is to release children on the same side of the street as their home, but that is not always possible.

“Several hours of work go into planning routes so they can be as safe as possible,” Zwahlen said