EDUCATION

It’s The Law: Authorities Want Drivers To Stop When School Bus Stop Arms Are Out

Oct 22, 2019, 1:26 PM | Updated: 8:50 pm

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – The Jordan School District is teaming up with law enforcement to raise awareness as concerns grow for student safety around school buses.

October is School Bus Safety Month, and officials marked it with a news conference Tuesday to bring attention to the importance of school bus safety laws. School authorities and law enforcement want drivers to stop blowing past stop arm signs — and anyone who doesn’t come to a complete stop will end up on camera.

“I’ve had several instances where I’ve had to shut the doors and pull children back,” said Shawn Dustin, who’s been a bus driver with the school district for five years.

He said there have been too many close calls, and he’s seen drivers engaging in all sorts of distractions on Utah roads.

“Everything from shaving in cars to putting makeup on to eating,” he said. “And, more often than not, I see people on cell phones.”

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He said he often sees vehicles drive past his school bus when it’s stopped with the stop arm down and the lights flashing. As the kids are boarding or unloading, he said sometimes drivers pass with hesitation, and sometimes they don’t.

“The traditional, ‘It’s a yellow light; I can speed up to beat it,’” Dustin said about the drivers’ behavior.

According to the Jordan School District, motorists pass stopped buses illegally hundreds of times a day, and it’s putting young lives at risk. In a recent one-day test with the state, officials found 917 drivers totally disregarded school bus stop arms. Many vehicles even pass on the right side of the bus.

Video of those violations will now be turned over to police.

“Just so the public knows, you’re on video,” said Lt. Matt Pennington with the South Jordan Police Department.

He said the buses’ videos are high quality, and authorities use them to investigate and hold people accountable. And when police catch up with drivers, the biggest excuse they hear is ignorance of the law.

Dustin said it’s hard to believe people wouldn’t know it’s illegal to pass a school bus with students loading and unloading — a process he said takes about two minutes.

“You almost want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but you really can’t,” he said. “ I … think any child’s life is worth two minutes of anybody’s time.”

Fines for driving past school bus stop arms start at $125. Repeat offenders will see that fine go up with each infraction, police said.

The rules

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, drivers must slow down when in the vicinity of a school bus.

“Watch for children,” according to the department’s website. “They can come from all directions, especially if they’re running late.”

Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop, load or unload children, according to DPS. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms mean the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting. Drivers must stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing and the extended stop arms are withdrawn.

Drivers must stop on two-lane roads when approaching from either side of the bus. Vehicles on three-lane roads with no median must also stop by law.

The only time it is legal to continue driving is if there is a five-lane road with a median or a turning lane. If that’s the case, traffic moving in the opposite direction of the bus can continue. Any vehicles behind the bus, though, in any of the lanes must stop.

Get more information at highwaysafety.utah.gov.

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It’s The Law: Authorities Want Drivers To Stop When School Bus Stop Arms Are Out