When a School Bus Stops, So Must You

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Thomas Jackson / Guest columnist

While tragedies are a part of life, none are more unbearable than when they happen to children. When we hear of a child’s death, it breaks our hearts, causes us to ask questions and to look for ways to prevent it from happening again. One far too common tragedy is avoidable and can be prevented with a little effort from us all.

You know the scenario: it’s been a long day and you’re on the way home and stuck behind a line of cars. Traffic is moving slow and your patience is running out. You may be running late and exhausted from work or focused on other things, and you start looking for a way to get around the bottleneck. You try and pass, but when you finally see the front of the line it becomes apparent what is causing the delay; it is late afternoon and you’re behind a school bus.

Email newsletter signup

Far too often, people become anxious and impatient and don’t realize the law regarding school buses, and that is when tragedy strikes. According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, last year there were 3 fatal incidents and 65 nonfatal injuries resulting from incidents with school buses and motorists. If one child dies because someone failed to follow the rules of the road, it is too many. We must all do our part to ensure the roadways are safe for our children and for school buses.

It is our duty to make sure students are protected when they get off the bus, and the law is clear: when a school bus stops all traffic stops. In many states there are exceptions to the all stop rule, but not inAlabama. No matter if it is on a small country two lane road or a four-lane divided highway,Alabamalaw requires that all vehicles, from both directions, must stop at least 20 feet from a stopped bus.

Alabamaauthorities take this matter very seriously. Last year, more than 330 convictions came as a result of passing a stopped school bus. Along with the ticket and the fine, motorists can expect increased insurance costs as well.

Many violations of the school bus traffic laws result from lack of knowledge. Remember, the law requires you to stop no matter what. Even if you think that the bus is stopping too far away or that it doesn’t affect you, it is always best to stop. It is like the old adage: better safe than sorry. Moreover, you could save a child’s life.

With school now in full swing the state is doing its part in trying to raise awareness about traffic laws and school buses. Last week marked the annual school bus safety awareness week. The purpose of the event is to remind motorists to be on the lookout for kids and to fully inform Alabamians about the law regarding bus safety.

The Legislature is also working to increase the safety of our children while they ride the bus. Last year an unfortunate incident inCherokeeCountyprompted Rep.Richard Lindseyto introduce a bill that would strengthen the penalty for anyone who discharges a weapon into an occupied school bus.

Unfortunately because of last year’s senate logjam, the bill failed to pass. But House members plan to introduce the bill again this year. The bill would increase the penalty for anyone firing at a school bus from a Class C felony to class B felony, punishable to at least 10 years in prison. The state legislature wants to make it clear: the penalties need to be strengthened for those who endanger our children. Anyone who threatens kids needs to be put away.

Children are precious. Do your part and stop for safety, and encourage all drivers to stop whenever a school bus does. With all of us obeying the law and taking extra care, we can ensure that the roads are safe forAlabama’s children and avoid unnecessary tragedy.