This is a study that hits close to home. Two of our children take the bus to school. It terrifies me to think their lives are in jeopardy as thousands of people disregard the school bus stop sign. The statistics being reported are alarming. In one day, drivers passed by school buses across Florida more than 9,000 times while bus drivers loaded and unloaded school children, according to a state survey. A new report by the Florida Department of Education shows drivers are endangering local children by illegally passing school buses. According the report, in one day in Duval County, 896 drivers passed a school bus that had its stop sign out. Duval has the second highest amount of violators in the state! (http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2014/09/11/Florida_Stoparm_Results_Summary_Final.pdf)
Action News interviewed a local bus driver who wasn’t surprised with the statistics. Darlene Haywood has been a bus driver for eight years, and said drivers pass her bus every day, narrowly missing students. “One day, everyone was stopped and this particular car came around traffic,” Haywood said. Haywood took part in the survey and said that particular day, five drivers passed her bus. Officer Christian Hancock with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was surprised by the findings. “It’s unconscionable to think it would be that high, obviously it’s an issue,” he said. According to JSO, passing a bus can mean to anywhere from three to five points on your license, and hundreds of dollars in fines. Haywood believes the only real way to protect local kids is for drivers to put down their cellphones and pay attention to the rules of the road. “Think about if it was your child what would you do? You wouldn’t be driving around the bus? You wouldn’t be driving around the bus,” she said.
What Will Happen If I Pass a Bus?
While neither side is necessarily “safer,” the amount of danger to kids sharply increases if you pass the bus on the right-hand side, as this is the side that the children use to step off of the bus, and therefore are more likely to be struck by your car.
- If you pass the bus on the right-hand side, you will pay a minimum fine of $265 for your first offense. A second offense within 5 years of this nature carries an additional $265 fine, as well as the suspension of your license for 180 days to one year and a mandatory court hearing.
- Drivers who pass on the left-hand side are no less culpable for their actions. Your first offense will cost you $165, and a second offense will add another $165 to that total, along with license suspension of 90 days to 6 months.
You will also be required to attend and successfully complete a basic driver improvement course. You must complete the course within the time allotted by the court which has dealt with your citation. Submission of successful completion proves to the state that you have reviewed and refreshed your knowledge of Florida traffic laws, including those dealing with school zones and school buses.
I hope anyone who reads this is reminded that children are still young and still learning. With all of the distractions and noises that are abundant on school buses, it’s typical to see a child distracted, stepping off of the bus and not being able to hear oncoming traffic. We are the adults; it is our duty to follow the law and give our children a safe environment.