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Turn Too Tight for School Bus

It was an auspicious day for a school bus to miss a turn in Great Falls.

The morning news of a Pennsylvania school bus driver who made an unscheduled trip to Washington had already made some parents nervous.

When the afternoon bus from Cooper Middle School ran late on Jan. 25, some parents got in their cars and followed the reverse route that the bus takes.

They found Bus 518, with their children still aboard, stuck at the corner of Georgetown Pike and River Bend Road, its right rear wheel suspended over a ditch with the frame of the bus sitting at ground level.

Traffic at Georgetown Pike and River Bend Road was slowed as other buses trundled slowly around the incapacitated middle school bus. A Fairfax County police officer directed them around the hulk of the school bus, which blocked the view of the drivers trying to emerge from River Bend Road onto Georgetown Pike.

The problem amplified what many bus drivers face: the chassis of a school bus is too long to make a turn onto a narrow residential road without crossing the double yellow line, they said.

The driver of Bus 518 said he waited for traffic on River Bend Road to clear before attempting his turn.

“You can’t cross the double yellow line without swinging wide [into the other lane]” he said. “I had to wait for traffic to clear, or for someone to give me a break.”

But instead of clearing, the line of cars backing north on River Bend Road got longer, aggravated by the heft of Bus 518, which blocked sight lines on Georgetown Pike to the east.

When he attempted the turn, the rear wheels left the road, with the bus frame suspending them over a drainage ditch.

“The rear end hangs out so badly that the bumper took the load,” the driver said.

“The kids didn’t know what happened.”

“This is how I wound up by not crossing the double yellow line.” said the driver. “It’s aggravating, awkward and frustrating, not to mention embarrassing. But except for the possible traffic hazard, there was no danger involved.”