The new school year is well under way, which means that some 350,000 youngsters around Arkansas are boarding one of about 7,000 school buses every day. School-bus safety is a top concern for the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Association of Pupil Transportation, which have completed the fifth annual campaign to remind drivers to remain alert when a school bus is in the neighborhood.
The groups have created a catchy slogan for a very serious issue. "Flashing Red. Kids Ahead" is the campaign's easy-to-remember reminder that when you see the flashing red lights on a bus stop, children are crossing the street.
This is not simply a suggestion. It is the law. State law requires drivers to stop. In 2005, after a driver illegally passed a bus and killed 9-year-old Isaac Brian, the General Assembly passed Isaac's Law, which increased the penalties when a driver kills a person after illegally passing a bus.
But even an increase in penalties isn't enough for some drivers. The Arkansas Department of Education reports that on April 26, 2016, school bus drivers in 100 Arkansas school districts reported 706 instances of motorists illegally passing a school bus. That is 706 violations in one day, and that's less than half of the school districts reporting.
Another way to look at that number is that it represents 706 miracles. Those 706 instances could have tragically changed life for a family and for many others in the same way a driver changed life for Isaac's family.
In a tragedy such as Isaac's, the family lost a child, innocent children witnessed the horrible accident and the driver's family suffered a loss.
Kimberly Friedman, director of communications for the education department, points out that drivers approaching a bus from either direction must stop for the flashing red lights.
Flashing red. Kids ahead. This little phrase is easy to remember, rolls easily off the tongue and is a great reminder to watch out for our school kids.