News from 555 Gearhart Road: Driving safety during the school year

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — You’re driving along on a four-lane highway and see a school bus with its flashing red lights and stop arm out. Do you stop for the bus or continue on?

“It could be a yes answer or a no answer,” and Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview.

“If it’s a divided highway, you don’t have to stop,” said Lenhart. “But if it’s two lanes both ways with no divider, then it’s yes to stopping.”

Lenhart used the four lanes in front of the Shelby County Fairgrounds as an example. Since there is no divider and there are two lanes going both ways, the driver of a car would have to stop if a school bus has stopped and put on the appropriate lights signaling they are picking up or dropping off students.

Lenhart said most accidents involving a school bus happens in the afternoon. The average age of children involved in the accidents are 4 to 7 years old.

“Last year, we had three accidents involving Shelby County school buses,” said Lenhart. “They were only minor accidents and no injuries.”

In 2017, there was one fatality dealing with a school bus incident. There were 459 school bus crashes and 224 injuries.

When dropping a child off at school, Lenhart cautions the driver to not double park while letting the child out of the vehicle.

“You shouldn’t block visibility of the child,” said Lenhart. “Get on the same side of the street the school is on to drop off the kids. If possible, carpool so you cut down on traffic at the schools.

“Always stop when the school patrol officer has their signs up,” said Lenhart. “There are school patrol officers at many of the schools in Shelby County. There are kids and senior citizens out there as school patrol officers.”

Drivers, he said, should also be careful around playgrounds, parks and residential areas as children might run out into the street.

“Be a good driver,” said Lenhart. “Don’t honk your horn if you’re impatient. Don’t rev your engine.

“Even if you’re in the right of way, give the kid trying to cross the street the right of way to do so,” he said.

More children, he said, will be on bicycles riding to and from school. Bicycles will be going with the flow of traffic and driving in the same direction as the vehicles.

“If you’re going to pass a bicycle, make sure there’s at least 3 feet between the bike and your car,” said Lenhart, that more than 3 feet will make it even safer for both the driver and the bicyclist.

“If the person on the bike is turning left, be courteous and let them make their turn,” said Lenhart. “Always pay attention to the kids on bicycles. Also watch from bicycles that are coming out of driveways or between parked cars.”

Drivers should also pay attention to the 20 mph school zone, which is in effect during school recess and during the opening and closing hours of school.

Before opening a car door, said Lenhart, use your side mirror to make sure there are no bicyclists or walkers near the door.

Drivers, said Lenhart, should:

• Not be talking, texting, eating or drinking while they are driving.

• Always buckle up and make sure all passengers are buckled up. If there’s a child in a child seat, make sure they are buckled in correctly.

• Always use the vehicle’s turning signals.

• Car pool if you can.

Make sure, said Lenhart, you do everything possible to ensure a child’s safety to and from school.

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.