I am a school bus driver for our local school district and am speaking as a driver without prior approval from our district. I feel it is important to let the public in and around Hood River know a few issues we face every day.
First and always most importantly, the safety of our passengers will always take priority so we are slow. Most of us are 40 feet long and have up to 84 students on board, so caution is the word. An important thing to consider while following or being slowed down by a bus is that one bus eliminates up to 80 cars added to the congestion!
My thanks go out to those who recognize our limitations while driving these 40-foot “tanks.” Many people at stop signs understand most of us have 23-foot wheel bases and cannot make a corner without swinging wide either before or after we make the turn. The rear wheels are 23 feet behind the fronts and simply do not follow the fronts.
An example I face every day is heading south on Tucker to Brookside, where I must turn right on Brookside. I have to either get way into the left lane just before turning or I have to use the oncoming left-turn lane on Brookside that enters Tucker Road to make the corner. If we could stay in our lane for the turn, the light poles and signs would be “eliminated” as our rear dual wheels would be 4 to 5 feet over the curb.
There are several blind corners on both Brookside and Indian Creek where near-misses happen way too often. Most people are great and stay well into their lanes at those corners, which gives us room to negotiate safely. We do, however, need the full lane to make those corners so when the occasional oncoming driver meets us at a corner over the center line, we have to stop fast, which brings us back to safety and being slow.
While heading south on Tucker with my right blinker on, I have had several people turn right onto Brookside Drive under me on the right while I swing left to make the corner. Some want to just go straight and some want to also turn onto Brookside. Either way, I have to stop so I do not hit the car and again have to do it fast. At that point I am blocking both lanes on Tucker Road and am potentially a target for a tail-end collision.
I am writing this just to let people know that we actually are not just “all over the road” without a reason, which I perhaps thought until I started driving these 30,000-pound people movers. There is a lot more to it than I ever knew.
I thank everyone for their patience with us and the attentiveness while approaching or following us — especially at student stops, where lives are at stake. Please remember that we need our full lane and at times more to safely make a corner.
We actually do save an amazing amount of traffic congestion and fuel by transporting thousands of students daily — and back to the priority, safely.
I also want to say how much respect I have for all the Hood River school bus drivers who do their jobs with little praise, but always with the safety of your children first and foremost on their minds.
John Alley lives in Hood River.