Beginning Monday, many more vehicles carrying precious cargo will share the streets and roads with the rest of us — school buses filled with students. With the beginning of a new school year for many area students comes the potential danger of distracted drivers.

Illinois law requires vehicles traveling either direction on two-lane roads to stop when a school bus extends the flashing "STOP" arm so that students can enter or exit the bus. It's difficult to imagine a driver not seeing a huge, yellow vehicle with flashing red and yellow lights. Yet some motorists will continue their travels pass a stopped school bus, putting themselves and students at deadly risk.

For drivers who do ignore those "STOP" arms, Illinois requires they pay a $150 fine and face a three-month suspended license. A second offense carries a $500 fine and a suspended license for a year. Why risk those penalties — not to mention create the potential for serious injury or even death — just to gain a minute or two toward your destination.

Some school districts are beginning to install cameras on school buses to catch violators in the act, and bus drivers can call police with the license plate numbers of vehicles that pass them illegally. District officials should do whatever they can to identify offenders and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

Ignoring a stopped school bus with its "STOP" arm extended puts children at serious risk. It will cost offenders serious money and create serious inconveniences for them. Shouldn't all drivers, then, make a serious effort to ensure the safety of our children?