By Tim Baxter, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist
August is National Back to School Month. When schools open the end of August, school buses will be running again, and extra care should be taken when county road department employees are traveling county roads. Instruct your employees to be extra careful at intersections while driving trucks, blading roads and during other road maintenance and construction activities.
Now is a good time to contact school representatives and ask for school bus route maps so those routes can be inspected for signing and road conditions, inspect intersections where weeds and brush may be hindering sight of oncoming traffic and remove those hazards. Minimum line of sight height at intersections is three and a half feet (3.5 ft.) above the surface of the road, so ensure sight distance problems are removed below that height or better yet, removed altogether. School bus drivers’ line of sight height is much higher than the standard 3.5 ft. so ensure tree limbs hanging over county rights-of-way, looking both ways from intersections, are trimmed a minimum 8 ft. above road surface to ensure good visibility of oncoming traffic for those school bus drivers. Remember to spray brush once it has been cut to prevent regrowth. Road sign minimum installation height is five feet from edge of road to bottom of sign, four feet minimum for advisory speed plaques. Ensure brush, trees and weeds do not block visibility of any and all road signs.
Ensure “School Bus Stop Ahead” signs, “S3-1” symbol or “S3-1a” legend signs are in good condition, including but not limited to the proper size of 36”, height, color, retroreflectivity, advanced placement of 500 feet, if stop location visibility is impaired, according to the 2019 Nebraska State Supplement to the MUTCD, etc. The 2009 MUTCD requires all school signs to be fluorescent yellow-green. Visit with school officials as to any sight distance or signing concerns their bus drivers may have and work to correct those concerns. It’s critical to maintain good public relations with your county’s schools whose buses travel your roads nearly every day during the week. Remember, “School Bus Stop Ahead” signs, S3-1 or S3-1a, must be the fluorescent yellow-green sign, yellow school signs can no longer be used. This rule has been in effect since the federal 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices was adopted.
Corn at this time of year is very tall and presents sight distance problems. Counties have little control over this problem unless the corn is planted in county rights-of-way. Work with your county attorney to follow procedures under Neb. Rev. Stat. §39-301 to give notice to the landowner/tenant, and then remove any corn or other sight obstruction from the county right-of-way.” This not only presents a huge safety issue for school buses full of kids and other motorists, but it is a liability issue as well. The county can be named in a lawsuit due to tall corn planted in county rights-of-way causing sight distance problems, but the farmer can be named as well. The landowner/tenant is responsible for crops on private property.
Have a short safety meeting with all road department and other county employees who drive county roads and remind them that school starts soon, and buses will be running. Young people with school permits will be driving with little experience, as well as parents taking their kids to school, so be extra careful on all roads! There have been far too many school bus accidents in the past so please do your best to inform your employees to travel safely and remove sight distance concerns and to improve signing.