BRATTLEBORO — I am thankful we have the school bus drivers we have. Every day they get up in the morning and come to work, always smiling, for the most part. (I mean, it's early-morning hours, and not everyone has had their coffee yet, right?)
However, they go out to their buses and - kind of like Santa Claus at Christmas - they have a list and they check it twice to make sure the buses are in working order.
By the time they start their routes, someone in the group has done something foolish and made us all laugh, so hey! Now we are all smiling.
Those of us who work together to get the district's students to and from school are a family, and for that I am grateful.
And one of our family has proved again why they rock.
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One recent afternoon, while doing her usual routine, one of our drivers, Liz Sampson, averted catastrophe.
With four students remaining on her bus, her route was almost done, and she was ready to continue her day. Some of us at this point in our workday would be counting the minutes and thinking of everything we must do before supper can hit the table and our heads can hit the pillow.
The bus stopped. Two of our students were starting to cross the road. Liz saw a white pickup truck passing and blasted the horn for three seconds.
The kids stopped crossing and turned. The truck stopped, and the kids crossed safely.
* * *
Unfortunately, people drive distracted every day, but here it is, plain and simple: Stop it!
For those of you on the road from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., that is prime time bus-a-palooza.
Yes, folks all over the country: Kids are lining up on sidewalks and back-road pull-off areas, waiting to board these 45-foot, 102-inch-wide, bright-yellow, roughly-30,000-pound taxis.
So, when a driver puts on her eight-way blinking red lights and that bright red stop sign pops out of the side of the bus and you don't stop, claiming you didn't see it, there is something wrong - you are driving distracted. You must be in order to miss something that bright and that large!
Nothing is worth the aftermath of your irresponsible split decision to just go. Your behavior could cost someone else their life and do irreparable emotional damage to some poor family.
As a reminder, in Vermont you can be fined up to $1,000 and receive five points on your driver's license. Those fines increase for each successive violation.
We are lucky that our local law-enforcement departments help us. It's great to see their support.
Our bus drivers do get the plate numbers and we send them in both to the local police and the Windham County Sheriff's Office. They take them seriously and investigate, often requesting the video in case the driver fights a violation in court.
We even have officers, when they are free of other cases and emergencies, sit in areas along our routes where the highest red-light violations are happening - in one day, we had five such incidents.
Those of us who work to transport children don't come to work because we like to be hated by the public for slowing the morning commute. We come to work because we take pride in dropping someone's everything off safely, both at school and home.
Thankfully, though, the drivers go through training so when this happens, we can still take pride in a job well done and avert disasters.
Unfortunately, they all can't be miracles like this one.