Chippewa Valley (WQOW)- It's been months since we've seen school buses picking up and dropping off kids from school, but they'll soon be back on the road, if they are not already, and officials are reminding motorists what to do when you see them out and about.
The start of the school year is a busy time for police to crack down on drivers who violate traffic laws near buses and school zones.
"Not just this year, but every school year, we have officers who do regular patrol around the schools, especially during drop off and pick up times." said Timothy Peterson, a school resource officer at the Altoona Police Department.
Laws require all motorists to obey the signs and lights that signal when the bus is picking up or dropping off kids, and bus drivers say knowing the difference between signals can be confusing.
"When you see the hazards, which are those yellow blinking lights and they're both going on, it's okay to be cautious and pass the bus." said Marty Klukas, general manager of Student Transit, which serves both the Eau Claire and Altoona school districts. "There's a big difference when we'll have amber flashing and they're up high and they turn from amber to red. When you see those going off, then be prepared to stop and certainly when you see the reds come on, that's an indication that you have to stop."
Student Transit says they see motorists disobey these laws at least once a day, and a violation could result in a hefty fine.
"If you do violate the law, it's a $326 citation, and that's something we are very strict about here in Altoona," said Peterson.
Officers say some of the biggest concerns come at crosswalks. When kids are ready to cross the street, all cars must yield to them, and they are not allowed to proceed until the kids are all the way across the street.
Officials are urging everyone to use extra caution around kids, either on or off the bus.
"I think the most important thing as a driver out there is to watch out for big yellow," said Klukas. "Just know that there is precious cargo on board, and this is a big deal. Just be safe around them, and when you see those lights, if you have any doubt in your mind, just stop and you'll be fine."