School buses return to township roads

Morning and afternoon commutes through White Township and most of the Indiana area are dramatically changing with the return of school buses to the roads for the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

These annual changes take place with a call for drivers to be prepared by allowing extra time and being alert for school vehicles and students on the roads.

Indiana Area School District classes start Wednesday at the four elementary and two secondary schools. The district’s contracted bus service, STA, will have 42 buses transporting about 2,700 students over the roads of White and Armstrong townships and Indiana and Shelocta boroughs.

With that added traffic comes an important list of school bus safety reminders for both experienced and novice drivers on White Township area roads.

Motorists approaching school buses are required to stop at least 10 feet from a bus that is stopped with flashing red lights and the extended “Stop” sign arm to pick up to discharge students.

The rule applies when buses stop on any street or road in residential neighborhoods, on the roads or streets outside the schools and on all roads where the buses travel on their routes.

More than just safety advice, stopping for a school bus is a regulation in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. A driver convicted of a violation will be assessed a fine of $250, a suspension of driving privilege for 60 days and the addition of five points on the motorist’s driving record (which could affect insurance rates).

A search of the Pennsylvania State Police Community Access to Information Dashboard, or CAID, shows that 20 percent of the citations troopers issued for violations of the school bus law in Indiana County since 2019 were written in heavily-traveled White Township.

The regulation applies to drivers following the bus in the same lane and to those who approach the bus from the front in the opposite traffic lane. At intersections, drivers may not make turns, proceed through or overtake a school bus until the “stop” sign arm has been retracted and the flashing lights have been deactivated.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation permits motorists to drive by stopped school buses on the opposite lane of a road divided by a physical barrier such as metal guard rails or concrete median barriers.

Along with the legal requirements for driver, Pennsylvania State Police issued a set of recommendations for parents and caregivers to instruct children on school bus safety.

•    When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and line up at least five giant steps away from the curb or the roadway to wait for the bus.

•    Never run after the school bus if it has already left the bus stop.

•    Never push when getting on or off the school bus.

•    Always walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus when crossing so that the school bus driver can see you.

•    When the school bus is moving, always stay in your seat and never put your head, arms, or hands out of the window.

•    Never cross the street behind the school bus.

•    Never speak to strangers and never get into a car with a stranger.

•    If walking to school, wear bright-colored or reflective clothing and use crosswalks where available.

The school bus law (Title 75, Section 3345, Meeting or Overtaking School Bus) is found online on the Pennsylvania Legislature website at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/75/00.033.045.000..HTM.

White Township has worked hard to assure safe and comfortable roads for school bus drivers and students traveling between homes and schools.

The township road crew this past summer completed several maintenance and repair projects involving township-owned roads and the pipeline systems along and under them.

Any roadway projects in emergency or urgent situations during the school year will be planned and coordinated with Indiana Area School District, local and Indiana County first response agencies and Indiana County Transit Authority, and will be widely publicized on the township website, in social media and in Indiana County mainstream media.