The most dangerous part of a school bus ride is getting on and off and if motorists don't stop for buses when they're supposed to the potential for a tragic accident increases.
Jimmy Sprague, Transportation Supervisor for the DeKalb County School System, said he is concerned that too many motorists are speeding, following buses too closely, and failing to stop when school bus lights and stop signs are deployed as students get off and on buses on roads, including four lane highways. Sprague said local and state law enforcement officers will occasionally be on board some of the buses to watch for violators.
"A major concern is on the four laned Highway 70. This road is considered a driveable median and when that bus activates its stop sign and red lights, all four lanes east bound and west bound do have to stop. They don't proceed on until the stop sign is pulled in and the lights are off and the bus is proceeding on. When that happens, vehicles can move along also," said Sprague.
The penalty for passing a stopped school bus is a class-A misdemeanor with fines ranging from $250 up to $1,000.
Tennessee law requires that:
Vehicles must stop before reaching a bus that has its flashing red warning lights and/or stop signal arm extended (B). Vehicles may not pass until the flashing red lights and signals are turned off.
Vehicles traveling in the same and opposite direction as the bus on an undivided road are always required to stop. (The four lane Highway 70 is an undivided highway and all motorists traveling in both directions must stop when a school bus stops to pick up and drop off children)
Vehicles traveling on a divided, or separated, highway do not have to stop when meeting or passing a bus on the other side of the road.
Drivers never pass on the right side of the bus, where children enter or exit. This is illegal and can have tragic results.
Don't tailgate a school bus. Follow at a safe distance.
Meanwhile after school programs have begun and for some students that means getting home later in the day. Sprague is asking parents of these students to be patient as bus drivers become familiar with the after school routes. "We'll get them home safely. Just bear with us because everybody is learning our routes on the After School Program. Please be patient. As we get further into it, the times will get better and be more consistent," said Sprague.