Trooper Steve pens heartfelt letter about school bus safety

News 6 traffic safety expert answers viewer questions

ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero answers viewer questions and shares tips about the rules of the road, helping Central Florida residents become better drivers by being better educated.

With school starting this week for several students in Central Florida, Trooper Steve addressed the topic of driving near school buses.

“It’s been a while since we have had some type of normal routine since the start of COVID-19. Things have obviously changed and that includes our routines.

“If you have followed me for any length of time, you know traffic safety is near and dear to my heart. It’s not just because Florida is an absolute mess when it comes to driving, but because every day we lose people from crashes that are 100% avoidable.

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“A traffic fatality is something I take personally, and from my years on the road, I’m still haunted by a lot of them today.

“We all deserve to be safe on the road and surrounded by people who care -- and that can’t be more important than for our students.

“Parents send off their kids every day, expecting them to return safely. The worst possible tragedy is that of a fatal crash involving one of our students.

“So, let’s talk school bus safety.

“Believe it or not, school bus drivers want to be there, choose to be there and, for the most part, absolutely love their job.

“The bus itself it built to be seen and safely transport people from one point to another. That giant yellow vehicle going down the road has so much going on that the last thing it needs is some careless or reckless driver giving them a hard time.

“So, what should you know or do when traveling around a school bus?

“First, understand they have a job to do and places to go. Just because you can detour or go down certain roads does not mean they can do the same. School bus routes are checked and approved. Knowing this gives you the knowledge to be patient during those morning and evening hours when they could be slowing down your travel.

“Parents, sometimes you all are the ones causing the problem. Yes, I said it. You, the parent, are the No. 1 complaint I get from drivers when it comes to loading and unloading at a school bus stop. Bus drivers tell me after loading the bus, parents will dart to their car and attempt to beat the bus out of the spot. This is a huge no-no.

“In most cases, the bus has control of approaching traffic, both from the front and the rear, traffic must obey the stop signals. Of course, that’s unless there is a positive median barrier on the other side of traffic.

“But what about traffic from the sides? That’s what that stop arm is meant to control.

“Drivers have told me time and time again that parents dart in front of the bus as their kids load. Please understand that the bus owns the traffic at that time. They have the right of way once they deactivate their traffic control equipment, meaning you should keep your cool and let the bus leave before you decide to enroll in the Daytona 500.

“Once the bus is prepared to leave its stopped location, allow it to make the appropriate lane changes. Sometimes, the bus driver will need to make a left up ahead after stopping in a right travel lane. Be courteous and let them move accordingly. If you’re frustrated, just imagine driving that size of vehicle with over 50 souls onboard. Patience is key.

“Yellow flashing lights mean you should start to slow down. Bus drivers activate this to give you the notification that they are going to be stopping soon and that students could be up ahead. This is not the NASCAR green flag. This does not mean you need to accelerate and get past the bus. Young students are unpredictable, and their safety is part of your responsibility.

“I’m a strong believer that every crash is avoidable, but if you have read anything I’ve written before, you know it’s more than that. Traffic collisions are violent, and they change people’s lives forever. Don’t be part of the problem we face in our community and help become part of the solution. We get no second chance when things go wrong. Please remember that.”

About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

Steven Montiero, better known as “Trooper Steve," joined the News 6 morning team as its Traffic Safety Expert in October 2017. A Central Florida native and decorated combat veteran, Montiero comes to the station following an eight-year assignment with the Florida Highway Patrol.