Updated regulations around stopped school buses went into effect Monday

Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 4, 2019

Legislation passed in the 2019 legislative session that allows school buses to block the two outermost right lanes of traffic when letting kids on or off the bus went into effect Monday.

House Bill 677 updated the existing motor vehicles and traffic regulations concerning stopped school buses.

The existing regulation already required drivers to stop 10 feet away from stopped school buses that are picking up or dropping kids off and set out a fine of up to $750 and up to a year in prison for people who violate the traffic regulation.

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The legislative update allows school bus drivers to block the two outermost right lanes of traffic to prevent the bus from being overtaken by oncoming traffic, and allows school bus drivers to block both lanes on a two-lane street or highway.

The law will ensure traffic does not pass the school bus at high speeds while kids get on and off the bus, said District 106 Representative John Glen Corley.

“Parents put their kids on the bus and trust them to the school system to keep them as safe as they can, and that’s certainly our intent in passing these laws,” Corley said.

The law is intended to make sure that if the bus stops and kids have to go to cross the street they can do so safely, said District 108 Representative Stacey Wilkes. Wilkes said she would expect most bus drivers to follow a route that would allow kids to get off the bus without crossing traffic.

“Whatever we can do to add extra protections to protect them… is a good thing,” Wilkes said.

Changed phrasing in the regulation states “any person witnesses” instead of “any vehicle is witnessed by a law enforcement officer or the driver of a school bus.” The change is made in the section pertaining to doubt as to whether the owner of the vehicle is driving the vehicle or not. No matter who is driving, if there is doubt as to who is driving, the owner of the vehicle will be liable for any illegal passing of school buses, the law states.

The change in phrasing was unnecessary, said District 108 Representative Stacey Wilkes.

“Legally, just like with anything else, if anybody sees something you can report it,” Wilkes said. “You’d have to have evidence with a video or photo if you’re going to report it.”

She believes the updated phrasing does not harm anyone, Wilkes said, because any report would still need proof.