NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – When the new school year starts next week, some parents will send their kids to school by bus.
The Arkansas Department of Education estimates a fleet of nearly 7,000 school buses take more than 250,000 students to and from school and school-related activities each day.
The last thing the parents of those students want to worry about is someone hitting their child getting on or off the bus, so the ADE has launched a new campaign to help remind drivers about safety.
The campaign is called Flashing Red, Kids Ahead. The intent is to remind drivers that it's illegal to pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing.
The Newport School District hopes this campaign as well as the precautions they're taking will make for a safe school year ahead.
The district begins running its 16 bus routes again on Monday, and as the bus drivers get ready to hit the road, superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett hopes people remember a few things.
"Everyone, be careful and watch for buses," Dr. Bennett said. "Watch for school zones and just keep your eyes open and pay attention."
Dr. Bennett says people should particularly pay attention to the buses and the flashing red lights that should signal them to stop.
"You see those lights flashing, you need to be cautious," he said. "Slow down because obviously it's the law. You're not supposed to pass the bus that's stopped and they've got the flashers going."
It's illegal in the state to pass a bus that's turned on its red flashers. Dr. Bennett says if his bus drivers see someone break the law, they know what to do.
"Don't speed around a school bus," he said. "If you get caught at it and we get your license, we will turn you into the state and the city depending on what the location is."
In the weeks ahead, the Newport Police Department also plans to watch the roads and school zones closely.
"[The officers] will be watching for speeders and anybody that's doing any kind of violation in a school, so be careful," Bennett said. "Pay attention."
The superintendent says Newport has never had a student struck getting on or off a bus or while walking in a school zone, and he hopes that record remains perfect.
"We just ask people to be very careful and very watchful because it's hard to see some of these little kids," Bennett said. "They'll dart across the street in front of you not thinking about it, so just be careful."
The ADE has compiled a list of some additional school bus safety tips for parents that they can review here.