School bus stop laws provide directives for what a motorist may and may not do while in the vicinity of a bus stop being operated by a school bus providing school transport. For drivers, not only are the rules of the road fairly simple when it comes to school bus safety, but the primary regulations are almost uniform nation-wide:
•When meeting a stopped school bus with red signal lights flashing and stop arm extended, you MUST STOP.
•You MUST WAIT until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm is withdrawn before moving.
•DO NOT MOVE until all the children have reached a place of safety.
Unfortunately, despite the clarity of rules like these, children are still injured or killed every day during pedestrian accidents involving impatient drivers who disregard the law. This phenomenon leads many car accident attorneys to question the effectiveness of current school bus stop laws.
Take, for instance, an incident that occurred in Douglasville, Georgia, this past week. A woman was arrested and charged with striking and killing a 17-year-old girl who stepped off of a school bus and into the path of her vehicle. Further investigation concluded that at the time of the accident, the school bus was stopped with its red lights activated and stop arm extended, indicating a direct violation of Georgia statutes.
OCGA § 40-6-163, for example, delineates the duty of drivers meeting or overtaking a school bus and reporting of violations. The code provides that: (a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, the driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus stopped on the highway shall stop before reaching such school bus when there are in operation on the school bus the visual signals as specified in Code. Sections 40-8-111 and 40-8-115, and such driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.
Georgia fines & penalties for infractions include:
•Mandatory court appearance •Up to $1000 fine •Up to 6 points on driving record •A conviction under 21 years of age constitutes license suspension
The penalties delineated above certainly provide a certain amount of deterrence. However, as the driver in this particular case quickly found out, the penalties for disregarding these codes have the potential to be much more severe if injuries result. 51-year-old Shirley Barker McManners, has now been charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, reckless driving and failing to stop for a school bus that had activated its red lights and stop arm. But the legal ramifications are not the only penalties that motorists like McManners will face: there’s also the mental anguish that accompanies them.
It would seem as if deterrents like penalties and fines would be enough to curb school bus pedestrian accident, but authorities cite a marked inability to accurately pinpoint people who are guilty of infractions. After having to deal with one too many accidents, one school district in Georgia, Cobb County, has developed a unique solution. They launched an initiative to put outside cameras on the stop arms of 102 buses. In a statement made in August to Ethan Fowler of the Smyrna Patch by Transportation Executive Director Rick Grisham “each bus, in the district’s fleet of 1,188, averaged a stop-arm violation per school day during the 2010-11 school year.”
Each bus is to have two cameras installed – one that faces forward and another that faces backward. They will be placed inside a case located approximately two feet below the red flashing stop arm. Associate Director of Transportation, Mike Warner suggested that the color cameras record diagonally, and can capture a license plate from 100 yards. Perhaps we will see a greater decline in accidents, with the advent and public advertisement of more initiatives like this one.