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Local schools, police stress bus safety

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By Tris DeRoma

School and law enforcement officials are putting out the word that residents who don’t stop for school buses dropping off and picking up children will get a ticket with a hefty fine and points off their license.

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Los Alamos Public Schools officials have started a countywide campaign called “School Bus Safety Week” to make motorists aware that when the school bus stops, they must stop also.

District officials have done a smaller campaign every year, but felt they had to have a more public campaign this year because of the many motorists that have ignored school bus stop signs and signals. The campaign will run until Feb. 15, but Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus hopes motorists will remember the campaign the whole year.

“That’s the reason we’re doing this campaign,” Steinhaus said. “We try to highlight this every year, but this is the first time we’ve partnered with county council and made it a full-blown campaign. We’re a data-driven organization, and the data told us we need a campaign.”

Steinhaus said the campaign is for motorists and students.

“Part of the week also includes teaching students to be more cautious, teaching them to ‘stop, look and listen’ applies,” Steinhaus said.

According to Los Alamos Public Schools Safety Coordinator Susan Fellows, over 65 residents violated the road rule last semester and about 24 have done so since Jan. 8.

“They didn’t know they were supposed to stop,” Fellows said. “They weren’t aware of the law.”
Los Alamos Police Department Sgt. Chris Ross said police officers are watching and giving out tickets, even though people are claiming they didn’t know.

It’s a $265 ticket for the first offense and six points off  a driver’s license for those that fail to stop for a bus letting children off.

Officials gathered for an official kickoff ceremony Monday afternoon at the bus garage at Pajarito Cliffs to make the public aware. Council Chair Sara Scott read a proclamation and spoke about the dangers of violating the law.

“That’s just way too many Scott said of the violations. All are invested in education and getting our kids to school safely is definitely a part of that,” Scott said. “I really hope people understand that it’s an issue.”

LAPS Transportation Coordinator Keith Rosenbaum said he hopes the message will permanently change people’s attitudes.

My hope is that with as much information we can get out there, we can change people’s understanding on what they are required to do by law,” Rosenbaum said. 

According to Rosenbaum, the violations have occurred countywide, they aren’t happening in just one area.

In a statement, about School Bus Safety Week the district issued tips for drivers who are unsure of the rules of the road when it comes to school children. They are:

* “First, drive slowly and look for children waiting at the bus stop, walking or riding their bicycles to school.

* Second, know what the flashing lights indicate. A red flashing light with the extended stop arm means traffic is required to stop, even in both directions of a two-lane road. Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop, so proceed with caution.

* Finally, follow all school zone speed limits, look for students in crosswalks and never pass a bus on the outside of a turn.”

Motorists who have other questions about school bus stops or school bus safety can call the school district’s transportation department at 663-2255.