This week, at 3.30pm on a Monday afternoon, I had the pleasant experience of coming face to face with an American school bus. Just like the UK, this is about the time the kids here finish school, and as you can imagine, the bus was filled with children.
At this particular point in time, the bus was stopped, and children were getting off. Now, before I continue with my story let me explain the school bus etiquette a) in the UK, and b) when I was a child at school many years ago.
Back when I was a little nipper, I would either take the public bus or a designated school bus to school. Back in my day school buses were much the same as any other bus, except they were filled with screaming kids. Cars would frequently overtake stopped buses (filled with school children or not), and bus drivers generally seemed to care not a jot whether you made it to school scathed or unscathed.
I must admit, I’m not with overly au fait with school bus etiquette and school children in the UK in this day and age, but I drive, and as far as I know I’m a safe and sensible driver. Of course, if I ever see a child near a road I am suitably cautious, and if I ever saw a child in danger I would do my utmost to help.
With all this in mind, it seems in the US, I need to be vigilant on a whole other level.
Firstly, you must understand, school buses here are sacred. You may think I’m egging my point a little, but let me assure you, every American I’ve spoken to on the East Coast about school buses is visibly terrified of getting the rules wrong.
If Americans see a school bus, they come to a standstill. No one moves, no one even breathes until the bus has left the area, and there is a not a child in sight.
So, as you can imagine, when I pulled out of a junction to the right of a stopped school bus, with children alighting the bus, the bus driver was less than pleased.
As I drove past said bus I even noticed the flashing stop sign attached to the bus alerting me that this was most certainly a no-go zone. Incidentally, if you’re not looking for, nor do you know the big red flashing stop sign exists, plus you are on the opposite side of the bus to where it is flashing, I feel it is reasonable to request forgiveness for not noticing the bright bright beacon… It’s certainly not a mistake I will make twice. Especially since driving past a school bus may even be an offence punishable by law.
However, apparently, I’m not the only one who is not yet up to speed on my US traffic etiquette… maybe we need to move to NYC…
I must tell you, no children were harmed in the making of this story. However, I must also warn you if you want to keep your license, and face in the States, never argue with an American school bus.