With the waning days of summer comes the clatter of children returning to school. For many students, that journey back to the halls of academe is made via school bus. The increased presence of school buses on our streets reminds us to slow down and be more watchful anywhere students and roadways may intersect.

With the waning days of summer comes the clatter of children returning to school. For many students, that journey back to the halls of academe is made via school bus. The increased presence of school buses on our streets reminds us to slow down and be more watchful anywhere students and roadways may intersect.

Motorists in the area of Dollarway High School may have noticed the Pine Bluff Police Departments not-so-subtle flashing sign, alerting drivers to slow down in the school zone. Even if youve not seen the sign, you should still remember to take it easy near schools. The raceway that is Olive Street in front of Jack Robey Junior High School gives us special pause for remembrance.

Even when were traveling away from schools, we must watch for school buses. Just to put a fine point on it, the Arkansas Legislature passed Arkansas Code Annotated 27-51-1004. This law states, when a school bus stops and displays its alternating red warning lights for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers, every operator of a motor vehicle or motorcycle meeting or overtaking the school bus from any direction shall bring the motor vehicle or motorcycle to a complete stop before reaching the school bus. This means we are legally obligated to stop completely when we see a bus stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers. This applies regardless of whether we approach the bus from the front or the rear.

The statute also goes on to state the operator of the motor vehicle or motorcycle shall not start up or attempt to pass in any direction until the school bus vehicle has finished receiving or discharging its passengers and is in motion again. This means that we cannot resume travel until the flashing lights go out and the bus moves first.

There is one exception to the requirement to stop when you see a stopped school bus. ACA 27-51-1005 states if the bus is stopped on a multiple lane highway defined as having at least 4 lanes and at least 2 lanes in each direction, and the highway is divided by a parkway or dividing strip at least 20 feet in width and if the bus is stopped on the other side of the dividing strip, then the driver of the approaching vehicle does not have to stop but must proceed with due caution for the safety of children.

The penalty for a violation of this law is pretty steep. The law provides for a fine of at least $250 up to $1,000 and/or up to 90 days in the county jail. The statute goes on to say that the court can also order up to 400 hours of community service and shall suspend your drivers license for at least 21 days up to one year.

Theres also another catch: The statute says that there is a rebuttable presumption that the registered owner of the vehicle that passed the stopped school bus was the driver at the time the violation occurred. In other words, the law assumes the vehicle is being driven by its owner. As such, you need to be careful who you permit to drive your car.

As well, we have all been made aware of the risks associated with talking on a cell phone and texting while driving. During morning and afternoon times when school buses are out, leave your cell phone in your pocket or purse. And just never ever try to drive and text no matter the time or circumstance.

Whether prompted by flashing signs, crosswalk markings or bright orange buses, we all need to remain attentive to the increased presence of children on and near our roadways. Theres no errand or journey so urgent that its worth hurting a child. Thats a lesson we should all take to heart.