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Mon, Jan. 20

Drivers must provide emergency vehicles, buses safe passage, operation on 89

Highway 89 through Chino Valley is a major artery through town, the route of nearly every vehicle traveling through or across town.

It's a highway that also serves as a town roadway, five lanes wide in some sections.

School buses use Highway 89 to transport children and make stops all along it to load and unload.

Emergency vehicles, including police patrol cars, ambulances and fire trucks, must get through the ever-increasing traffic numbers en route to a call. Without drivers' cooperation – and obedience of the law – a trip can become a hazard.

All this may sound obvious to most drivers, but many act oblivious to their responsibilities when lights flash on buses or emergency vehicles.

Law enforcement officers complain that many times drivers fail to pull off to the side of the road, as Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) require.

Officers, on their way to another call under code red, can't stop and issue tickets for failing to yield to an authorized emergency vehicle. They can note the license plate, however, and mail a citation. The owner may not be the driver, which further complicates the process.

One local sheriff officer said he believed drivers either don't hear the siren because their car is closed up and the radio and air conditioning are on, or they just don't care.

"People don't know how dangerous it is when we're going 100 mph," the officer said.

School district officials complain each year that drivers on both sides of Highway 89 don't always stop when buses load and unload.

Some students actually must cross the entire width of the highway to get home. That's why the bus driver leaves on the flashing lights after all the students have unloaded, to give them time to clear the roadway.

ARS 28-857.A.1-2 requires drivers to remain stopped until the flashing ceases.

Highway 89 through Chino Valley is not a back country road. Drivers need to pay attention, obey the laws and keep this highway a safe town street.

Drivers who didn't know they were breaking the law have no recourse when an officer cites them for these violations.

That same person certainly would want their child safe when exiting a school bus or when they've called police to a crime occuring at their house or business.

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