The bright yellow school bus slows as it approaches a neighborhood bus stop, where five or six students wait by the curb.
First, the flashing yellow lights come on. The stop-arm then swings out. Blinking red lights warn that children will soon enter the street.
Suddenly, a motorist passes by as the kids begin making their way to the bus.
I would like to think it’s a terrible case of not paying attention rather than an intentional act of impatience. Such scenarios play out daily across the nation and Alabama. On a random day last May designated by the Alabama Department of Education, school districts statewide reported 1,390 instances of vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses.
Our Madison PD issues citations each time officers observe these types of violations, but with hundreds of bus stops spread across 146 daily bus routes, they are limited in what they can do.
Passing a stopped school or church bus while it is loading or unloading is against the law in Alabama. The only exception is for drivers traveling on a divided highway of at least four lanes, provided the driver is on the opposite side of the thoroughfare from the stopped bus.
The fine on the first offense in Madison is $240. Subsequent offenses could result in fines ranging from $500 to $3,000 and license suspension of several months to up to a year, plus community service.
Madison City Schools goes to great lengths to ensure children remain safe riding to and from school. Buses are inspected regularly and serviced on a timely basis, and drivers undergo extensive training to ensure safe operation of the bus. Routes are strategically mapped out to ensure efficiency and logical placement of bus stops.
Most Madison motorists practice safe driving during school arrivals and dismissals. We ask everyone to be patient around bus stops and in school zones as the buses make their rounds with approximately 6,000 Madison City students daily.
Is the risk of injuring or killing a child worth the seconds you might save by passing a school bus that is loading or unloading kids?
By John Peck
Madison City Schools