Sen. Cunningham’s Legislative Column for Aug. 9

In the next few weeks, schools will be back in session for many of the children living in the 33rd Senatorial District. This means schedule changes not only for families of school-aged children, but for the community as well. I urge everyone to be mindful of children and their families traveling to and from school, especially on our roads and highways.

When school is in session, there are many children standing alongside our rural highways and roads waiting for the school bus. While some of these children are supervised at their bus stops, many are not as parents head to work or other obligations. There are more than 30,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in this district and many of them ride the school bus. These are not just short bus rides to a school down the street. Some of these students may be on the bus for an hour or more, and while it is their responsibility to obey the bus driver, who must keep them safe, it is our job to make sure we obey the laws of the road to ensure their safety.

Missouri law outlines the traffic regulations that apply to drivers who encounter school buses on the road. These laws are introduced to keep our children safe as they ride the school bus. In accordance with Missouri law, all school buses must have an approved mechanical and electrical signaling device for use when the bus intends to stop. In most cases, this includes flashing red lights and a red stop sign extending from the driver’s side of the bus. When approaching a stopped school bus from either direction, drivers are required to stop before reaching the bus. Drivers are to remain stopped until the bus has started moving again or until the bus driver signals the motorists to go ahead. School buses will also activate their warning lights and come to a full stop before crossing railroad tracks. Students enter and exit the school bus on the right side, it is never safe to pass a school bus on its right side.

Children are encouraged to follow safety rules as well when riding the school bus.

While waiting for the bus:

  • Wait in a safe place away from the road, do not run and play while waiting.
  • Never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into the car with a stranger.
  • Wait for the bus to arrive, watch for red flashing lights and the stop sign. Only approach the bus when all traffic has stopped.
  • Stand at least 10 feet from the road when waiting for the bus.

While on the bus:

  • Go directly to your seat, stay seated and facing forward while the bus is moving.
  • Talk quietly.
  • Never throw things on the bus or out the windows, never play with the emergency exits.
  • Keep the aisles clear at all times.
  • If there is an emergency, listen to the driver and follow their instructions.

Going back to school is a fun and exciting time for everyone. As role models for our children and other students, we can shape the importance and value they place on their education. Let them know you are interested in what they are doing. Offer your help, advice and support. And be sure to always let them know that they are only expected to try their best each and every day. Students of today are the future of tomorrow, so do all you can as a parent, teacher, school volunteer and community member to encourage students of all ages to reach and achieve their educational goals.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.