Traffic fails to yield to school buses
November 12, 2010
Bus drivers in the South Summit School District are reporting an increase in vehicles that pass school buses when warning lights are flashing.
As a bus driver approaches a stop, he or she activates lights to alert surrounding cars that students will either be loading or unloading. Usually between 100-500 feet from a stop yellow lights transform the area behind the bus into a school-zone.
Regardless of the standard speed limit, it drops to 20 miles per hour. Drivers on both sides of the road are required by law to stop when the lights begin to flash red, said Wes Blazzard, the South Summit School District transportation director.
"We seem to be having an increase in people who are either ignoring or not noticing and driving right past the bus lights," Blazzard said. "I think people just become comfortable and complacent with the buses on the road and forget that they are loading and unloading children."
He added that when this happens, the bus driver’s primary concern is student safety. Because he or she is often unable to record a license plate number, many motorists are not cited.
"We wish we could get parents to help view those license plate numbers while they are out with their kids," he said.
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Blazzard has partnered with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department to address the issue in two ways: educating the community and more firmly enforcing the laws.
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds met with South Summit district administrators to identify areas most commonly affected. The sheriff’s department will increase the number of deputies regularly patrolling bus routes along State Road 32 between Oakley and Francis, Edmunds said.
"We are going to take a zero-tolerance stance," Edmunds added. "People need to understand that if they are caught passing a school bus inappropriately, they are going to be stopped and going to be ticketed 100 percent of the time."
"When amber lights come on, they need to be in the process of stopping," he said. "When red lights come on, they have to be stopped."
The problem isn’t just in South Summit. Ray Maxwell, transportation director of North Summit School District, said he sometimes receives three reports from his drivers in a week.
"If they can get the license plate number and a description of the driver and the car, then we turn it in to the sheriff’s department," Maxwell said.
Park City School District Transportation Director Brent Chaston said the problem comes from impatient drivers.
"I know they are in a hurry," Chaston said. "It’s only a few minutes and everyone is on their way and it’s an uneventful day. And that’s what we want."
He added that the longest stop among the district routes is on Prospector and it is only a three-minute wait.
Edmunds said the Summit County Sheriff’s Department has contacted North Summit and Park City school districts and plans to further work with administrators as it has with South Summit.
Sheriff’s deputies will enforce the zero-tolerance policy throughout Summit County by following buses in both marked and unmarked vehicles. Citations will begin at $140. Fines can increase with repeat offenses.
Blazzard said drivers need to be most cautious during the high bus-traffic times of the day. South Summit School District buses run between 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Routes in North Summit School District run from 6:30 to 8 a.m. and between 2 and 3:30 p.m.
Buses in Park City School District run from 6 to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
Blazzard said drivers need to pay close attention regardless of whether or not lights are flashing.
"They need to be aware that if a bus is stopped in the road there are children around," he said.