Motorists Reminded of School Bus Traffic Laws to Keep Students Safe
Riding a school bus is the safest way for students to get to and from school, but when they are outside of the bus, in what is referred to as the “danger zone,” is when they are most at risk for being injured or worse. This is due to motorists illegally passing school buses at bus stops.
A national survey that tracks the illegal passing of school buses found that more than 95,000 motorists ran school bus stop arms in one day last school year. That same survey shows that 8,827 motorists in Georgia illegally passed a stopped school bus on a single day.
This is not just a national and state problem, it is prevalent in Fayette as well. From September to December 2019, school bus drivers reported nearly 200 vehicles illegally passing their buses while they were loading/unloading students with their overhead red lights flashing and lighted stop arms extended. The majority of the violations were reported in the North Fayette area (30 percent), mainly along Georgia Highway 92, and the Peachtree City area (33 percent). Driver reports show that the majority of illegal passes happen in the mornings. Approximately 48 percent of Fayette’s student population is transported to and from school by bus.
Motorists must do their part to keep students safe outside of the school bus by following Georgia’s traffic laws. Bus drivers will turn on the overhead amber flashing lights to give motorists advance notice that they are preparing to stop to pick up or drop off students. Once the flashing lights have turned red and the stop signs have extended from the side of the school bus, it is unlawful for any vehicle to pass the stopped school bus while it is loading or unloading students. Drivers should stop far enough from the bus to allow students to safely enter and exit the bus. The only time motorists do not have to stop is when they are traveling on a highway divided by a median on the opposite side from the stopped bus.
The penalties for illegally passing a school bus are stiff. The offense carries six points against a person’s driver’s license as well as a minimum $300 fine for the first offense, $750 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third offense. All Georgia fines carry additional court costs and surcharges. A $300 fine will usually increase by 60 percent when the surcharges are added to the base fine.
As the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year begins, Fayette County Public Schools urges motorists to review school bus traffic laws and renew their efforts to reduce the ongoing threat to the safety of students posed by the illegal passing of school buses. A short video and written explanation of Georgia’s school bus traffic laws are available on the school system’s website, www.fcboe.org. Click on the “Departments” tab at the top and select “Transportation” from the menu. On the transportation page, select “Info for Motorists” on the left-hand side.