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Caution urged as schools open in area

Tyrone Area and Bellwood-Antis students will hit the halls of their respective schools for the first time tomorrow.
But, before the bell rings, motorists are being reminded to be alert for school buses and for children walking or biking to school.
PennDOT’s Secretary Allen Biehler, P.E., said “responsible drivers need to watch for students who are boarding or getting off school buses, and they should watch for crossing guards who are working to make sure children are safe as they cross streets.”
A PennDOT press release said motorists in both directions must stop when a school bus has its red lights flashing and a stop arm extended. Violators of the state’s school bus stopping law face a 60-day license suspension, five points on their driving record and a $250 fine.
The Pennsylvania state police in Huntingdon County also issued a reminder earlier this month about stopping laws regarding buses. The information explained how drivers should deal with a stopped school bus.
A driver meeting or overtaking a school bus stopped on a highway or road shall stop at least 10 feet before reaching the school bus when the red signal lights on the bus are flashing and the side stop signal arms are activated. The driver shall not proceed until the flashing red signal lights are no longer activated.
The state police said, “in no event shall a driver of a vehicle resume motion of the vehicle until the school children (exiting) from the school bus have reached a place of safety.”
The information from the state police goes on to state that a driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection at which a school bus is stopped “shall stop his vehicle at the intersection” until the flashing red signal lights are no longer activated.
The information also explained how a driver should deal with a bus flashing amber lights by noting a “driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking any school bus shall proceed past the school bus with caution and shall be prepared to stop when the amber signal lights are flashing”.
PennDOT also is cautioning motorists to look for children who may dart into the street without looking and for children playing around bus stops. Drivers should also be extra alert when backing out of a driveway or garage.
PennDOT noted that there were 491 school bus crashes that caused 578 injuries in the state last year. Along with school bus safety, motorists also need to obey school zone speed limits, which are posted 15 miles per hour.
PennDOT also offered a list of bus safety tips for kids:
• stay out of the street while waiting for the bus;
• do not shout, yell, or sing while on the bus; it can distract the driver;
• wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before exiting;
• wear bright clothing and allow extra time to walk to the bus stop;
• walk 10 giant steps in front of the bus so the driver can see you;
• never retrieve anything that falls under the bus;
• remain seated at all times while the bus is moving;
• keep aisles clear and stow school bags under the seat and
• wait for the driver’s signal before crossing in front of the bus. Be sure to look first to the left, then to the right and then to the left again to see that all cars have stopped.
For more information about the state’s school bus stopping law visit PennDOT’s web site at www.dot.state.pa.us and click on the school bus.