Concern is growing over the frequency of local motorists who either mistakenly fail to, or intentionally choose not to, stop and wait for stopped school buses with flashing red lights and “Stop” arms extended.
As reported in a Sept. 28 front-page story headlined, “Stop for school buses, officials urge,” school bus drivers often see motorists drive around their stopped bus, and put loading and unloading students in peril.
A school district official said violations occur so frequently it may be only a matter of time until a student gets hit.
But that regrettable outcome can hopefully be avoided. From the story, below are some key safety reminders and state code regarding motorists’ responsibility while in the presence of a stopped school bus.
• When a school bus driver approaches a bus stop, he or she is required to turn on yellow flashing lights to warn drivers that students are in the area.
• While children are either getting on or off the school bus, the driver turns on flashing red lights and extends the “Stop” arm. Bus drivers are required to keep the red lights flashing until all students are seated. If the bus is picking up a student in a wheel chair, the red lights will continue to flash until the student is seated and the wheel chair is secured.
• According to state code, when red lights are flashing, all motorists approaching the bus, from either the front or the back on a two-lane road, must stop and not proceed until the flashing red lights are turned off. Failure to do so is a Class C misdemeanor.
• All motorists approaching a stopped school bus with flashing red lights, from either the front or the back, must stop on all two-lane roads, and all two-lane roads with a turn lane in the center.
• According to state code, on divided highways with opposing lanes of travel separated by a median or barrier, motorists approaching the front of a stopped school bus with flashing red lights are not required to stop. But motorists approaching the back of the bus must stop.
• Motorists approaching the front of a stopped school bus with flashing red lights do not need to stop if they are traveling on a highway with five or more lanes, which may include a two-way turn lane, according to state code. But motorists approaching the back of the bus must stop.
Last spring, the Tooele County School District and local law enforcement met to determine ways to increase the safety of students who ride a school bus. Bus drivers are now reporting motorists who fail to stop to law enforcement for investigation. And the fines aren’t cheap.
The school district and local law enforcement are applauded for making students’ safety a priority and empowering bus drivers to document motorist infractions. And motorists who comply with state code are thanked for their commitment to safety. For those who don’t, mistakenly or intentionally, consider making a new choice. Failure to do so may carry a price that can never be repaid.