By Tim Baxter, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

August is National Back to School Month. School boards and staff are formulating plans on how to return students to school as safely as possible due to COVID-19. If schools do open the end of August, school buses will be running again, and extra care should be taken when road department trucks and equipment are traveling county roads. Instruct your employees to be extra careful at intersections while 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 road sign and road conditions, inspect intersections where weeds and brush may be hindering sight of oncoming traffic and remove those hazards. 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. Remember to spray brush once it has been cut to prevent regrowth. Road sign height is a minimum of five feet from edge of road to bottom of sign. Ensure brush, trees and weeds do not block visibility of road signs.

Ensure “School Bus Stop Ahead” signs are in good condition, including but not limited to the proper height, color, retroreflectivity, advanced placement, etc. Visit with school officials as to any sight distance or signing concerns they 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, must be the fluorescent yellow-green symbol sign. 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, remove sight distance concerns and to improve signing.

If you have any questions, please contact Tim at 402-310-4417 or tim@nirma.info. Be safe.

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