Some Fulton Residents Annoyed by School Buses Blocking Traffic

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FULTON - A hold up in traffic for around a minute is frustrating some Fulton drivers.

After school ends and buses are dismissed at 3:10 p.m., one Fulton Middle School bus turns onto Bluff Street and turns on its flashing lights blocking northbound traffic at 13th Street. Then, the remaining 29 buses leave the school and head out to take students home before going to the high school. The bus that blocks traffic then turns off its lights and drives away allowing normal traffic to resume.

"It's more annoying that they feel they can follow different rules than everyone else," said Fulton resident Michael Rogers. "So that part is annoying."

The bus blocking traffic does not use its stop sign; it just uses flashing lights. Rogers said he's seen people drive around the bus and not wait for all the buses to leave. He said he plans his weekdays so that he doesn't drive in the Fulton Middle School area around 3:15 p.m. so he can avoid the delay. Rogers said he's annoyed the buses can hold up traffic just to stay on a time schedule.

"I understand the reasoning of what they do because you have time frames you have to maintain, you know, as best you can," Rogers said. But he and other people, he said, think "they should at least abide by the same rules."

Rogers said he talked to a Missouri Highway Patrol Officer who told him it's not technically against the law for the bus to hold up northbound traffic.

Columbia Deputy Police Chief Major Roger Rice told KOMU 8 News the same thing - the bus drivers are not breaking the law. In fact, the Fulton Police Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol were part of the creation of this procedure.

"We've worked with the Highway Patrol and they have no issues with it," Rice said. "We have no issues with it."

Rice said the idea behind the traffic block is keeping students on the buses safe.

"In the years past, we've had a lot of accidents with school buses and cars there with them trying to get out. The process that we're using now with the school bus has actually worked very well," Rice said. "We want those kids to get from one building to the next. Those buses have to pick kids up. We need to get them home."

Since the buses go to Fulton Middle School first, Rice said they have to stay on time or they will be delayed going to the high school and then all the elementary schools after.

"If they have to wait in traffic at every school, all that does is just delays them getting home in the evening. We want them to get home in one piece. We want them to get home safe," Rice said.

Some dispute comes from the amount of time the bus holds up traffic. Rice said he would understand people being upset if the delay was five minutes, but he said it's not that long.

"I've monitored that several times myself and it takes anywhere from 24 to 26 seconds to get all 30 buses through there," Rice said.

Rogers said he had some difference experiences. He said sometimes it is around 30 seconds but other times he's waited for five minutes.

When KOMU 8 News went to the area, we timed the traffic block from the moment the bus put on its brake lights to the moment that same bus began driving again. That time was one minute, six seconds.

Superintendent Dr. Jacque Cowherd said other Fulton schools implement different techniques to keep buses on track. He said because Fulton is a small district, they only have one set of buses that have to reach all schools at certain times.

When asked what he would say to those complaining, Rogers said, "It's a minor inconvenience."