Drivers illegally passing school buses when a stop-arm is down is a big problem. Douglas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Gordon Pritz said it’s not unusual for every bus running in the county to experience at least one violation a day, which amounts to over 200 violations a day.
To help rectify the problem, the Douglas County Board of Education recently approved installing stop-arm cameras on about 10 percent of buses, or about 20-25 buses.
A private company will supply and install the cameras at no cost to the school system. The company the board chose – American Traffic Solutions (ATS) – would get 32 percent of the revenue collected. The other 68 percent would go to the county.
“This is a huge danger to our children,” said Pritz, who notes the fine for a first-time offense is $300. “Districts that have already installed the cameras are seeing as much as a 50-60 percent decline in the infractions in the first year.”
Pritz said the cameras are expected to be installed by the end of the first semester. He said the buses selected would be those that run routes where the school system sees the greatest number of violations.
He said those routes can vary, but a lot of violations tend to happen along four-lane roads where there is no median like Hospital Drive.
“Sometimes drivers in the far two lanes, traveling the opposite direction from the bus, don’t realize the law requires they stop as well,” said Pritz.
The problem is one that runs statewide.
Data collected voluntarily by districts in Georgia during a one-day survey in the spring shows that 6,807 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses, down from 7,349 last year and 8,102 in 2011. Still, the numbers are likely higher than that because not all of the state’s 178 school districts with bus programs turned in data.
“I am glad to see the numbers are declining, but more than 6,000 illegal passes of buses with stop arms down is very alarming,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. “I ask the public to please pay close attention to school buses and watch for their stop signals. Student safety should be a priority for everyone in the community, not just parents and schools.”
Since 1995, 13 Georgia students have died when they were struck by motorists at the school bus stop.
According to Georgia law, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop when a school bus activates its stop-arm on a two-lane road or a multi-lane road with no median or barrier. Vehicles traveling in the same direction as a school bus must always stop, but motorists traveling in the opposite direction can proceed (with caution) when there is an unpaved median or concrete barrier separating the opposing lanes.
“The reduction in violations is an indication that more Georgians are learning and obeying the stop-arm law,” said Harris Blackwood, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “However, this is still too many and we must continue to educate the public in order to better protect our students.”
A press release from the Georgia Department of Education contributed to this report.