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Law requires school buses to display stop signs, lights on private roads

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PHOENIX – As of Sept. 13, school bus drivers loading or unloading children must display stop signs and flashing lights even on private roads.

“I believe this will help save children’s lives in the future,” said Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who sponsored the new law.

The idea came from the family of Elizabeth Bates, a Safford 8-year old struck and killed by a car in 2008 while getting off a school bus in a mobile home park.

Current law requires drivers to display stop signs and lights only on public roadways.

“It’s just a shame that it wasn’t in the original law,” said Fann, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee. “Maybe we could have saved Elizabeth’s life.”

Yvonne Hunter, an attorney with Fennemore Craig who helped draft the legislation, said that the current law isn’t clear on where and when school bus drivers must display stop signs and lights.

“They don’t have to guess anymore. They just know that whenever they’re loading and unloading passengers you put out the sign, turn on the lights,” she said.

Hunter, whose firm represented Bates’ family, said the goal is changing the way that bus drivers are trained.

“The family felt that they made a promise to Elizabeth at her funeral and at her memorial service that they would do everything in their power to keep another child from succumbing to the same kinds of situations that caused her to die,” she said.

Nancy Dudenhoefer, community relations spokesperson for the Kyrene School District, said the new law codifies something officials there already require.

“If our buses stop and they’re unloading kids, they do that anyway,” she said.

Robb Cozby, director of transportation for Parker Unified School District, said the new law “doesn’t really affect us.”

“Our bus drivers use their lights and stop signs unless pulling completely off the roadway,” he said.

Bill Blong, executive director of the Arizona Rural Schools Association, said it’s common for drivers in rural districts pull off the road when loading or unloading.

“But the utilization of safety lights on school buses is a good thing,” he said.