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Md. Highway Administration removes incorrect safety graphic

March 27, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The Maryland State Highway Administration removed a school bus safety graphic from its website Thursday morning after The Herald-Mail questioned the accuracy of the graphic.

The graphic was part of the agency’s Web page titled “Kids, the School Bus and You.”

It featured five images showing different traffic scenarios and indicating when other vehicles should stop for a school bus.

The image removed from the website showed a bus stopped on a five-lane road with a center turning lane — like the newly widened Maugans Avenue — but the graphic incorrectly indicated that only traffic going the same direction as the bus was required to stop.

State Highway spokesman David Buck said Thursday that the image was inaccurate and was removed from the Web page shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday, a day after The Herald-Mail inquired about its accuracy.

“Clearly, we want to have the right information up on our website,” Buck said.

Buck said the information was placed on the school bus safety Web page in January.

“It came from us. We did it,” Buck said. “But I don’t know for sure if someone interpreted the law differently or whether we got it from a school official or manual.”

Buck said a review of the Web page determined that everything else on the page was correct.

The confusion might center on the definition of a divided highway.

Maryland law states that if a school vehicle has stopped and is operating its red flashing lights, other drivers meeting or overtaking the school vehicle shall stop 20 feet from the rear or front of the school vehicle. The only exception listed is for drivers on a divided highway, if the school vehicle is on a different road.

Maryland law defines a divided highway as a highway divided into two or more roadways by an intervening space, a barrier or “a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic.”

Buck said the “intervening space” is ambiguous, but a road with a center turn lane — such as Maugans Avenue — does not fall into the definition of a divided highway.

Dual Highway, however, would, said Barbara Scotto, Washington County Public Schools’ supervisor of transportation. Drivers on Dual Highway would stop for the bus if they were going in the same direction, but drivers on the other side of the median going in the opposite direction would not be required to stop, she said.

That stretch of Maugans Avenue has been an ongoing problem because drivers don’t always stop for the bus at bus stops along the road, Scotto said.

Scotto said school system bus drivers are trained that motorists must stop in all lanes at bus stops except on divided highways. Drivers also are told to make sure traffic has stopped before letting students leave the bus, she said.

Lt. Art Overcash with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday expressed concern about the state highway graphic because there’s nothing to keep a child exiting a bus from running across all five lanes.

“I’m glad they corrected it,” Overcash said Thursday.

Overcash said he hopes anyone who saw the website will go back and review it now that it’s been corrected.

The website for the Maryland State Highway Administration’s school bus safety page is www.marylandroads.com/Index.aspx?PageId=241&d=79.

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