Story by Winifred Brown on 08/22/2019CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 21, 2019) With school starting Aug. 26, drivers in the Camp Zama community must familiarize themselves with a fleet of new school buses that are white with yellow warning triangles that say "school bus" in Japanese only.
Drivers might be used to seeing school buses that include warning signs in English, but Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific East bought a new fleet of buses over the summer and now the only messages motorists will see in English are on digital marquees on the fronts and backs of the buses, said Kevin Hassin, district transportation supervisor for DoDEA Pacific East.
He also stressed that it is dangerous and illegal to pass a stopped school bus on post, and school officials want to make sure drivers are aware of the changes.
Drivers must stop 20 feet ahead and behind of stopped school buses, said Hassin, adding that a good way to think of 20 feet is to imagine about two car lengths.
The marquees on the backs of the buses are near the tops of the buses so drivers in vehicles several vehicles behind will be able to see them, Hassin said. The marquees on the fronts of the buses are below the front windshields and yellow warning triangles.
Chris Smith, Camp Zama transportation office manager, said Camp Zama received 20 new buses, including 17 daily commute buses, two tour buses for long trips and one micro bus.
He reiterated that motorists must exercise caution.
"It is important to know that the stickers that designate the buses as school buses are not in English, but in Japanese," Smith said. "If drivers see a triangular emblem with a picture on it of children walking, people need to stop. Otherwise they could receive a ticket for passing a stopped school bus."
School bus drivers will write down the drivers' license plate numbers and give them to police, Smith said.
While drivers will have to get used to the changes, however, it is unlikely the students who ride them will have any trouble adjusting.
"They're riding in comfort," Smith said.
The new buses are air conditioned and include plush bucket seats that recline and have individual seat belts, Hassin said.
The school buses have tinted windows and the tour buses also have curtains for long trips, Hassin said.
In addition, the buses have the highest safety standards available, including sensors that will automatically slow buses down if they get too close to an object, Hassin said.
Bases throughout mainland Japan received the new buses, Hassin said.
Brooke Boswell, Camp Zama school liaison officer, said it is also important for parents to remember they must register their children for the school bus before the start of school.
Parents can register their children at the bus pass office at Zama Middle High School in Building 919, Room 508. The office is open 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the phone number is DSN (315) 263-4151 or (046) 407-4151.
This is also a good time to remind students that they not only need their bus passes to get on buses, but must also have military identification to get on military installations, Boswell said.