With the start of a new school year around the corner, drivers in Georgia need to be especially careful to lookout for children who could potentially cross paths with their vehicles when entering or exiting school buses.
In 2016, five people, including one student, were killed in metro Atlanta accidents involving school buses, according to data collected by the Georgia Department of Transportation. That number has increased from three people in 2015 and two in 2014. Injuries also have risen more than 60 percent in recent years, from just under 200 in 2013 to more than 330 in 2016.
In Georgia, the law is clearly established regarding the duties of a driver of a vehicle when passing or stopping at a school bus. A driver meeting or overtaking a stopped school bus, from either direction, must stop before reaching the school bus when there are visual signs in operation on the school bus. Drivers shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer in effect.
For example, it is against the law for a car to pass a school bus that is stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign arm extended. It is crucial to remember that traffic in both directions must stop for a school bus if there is no dividing median on the road.
Here are some explanations of when traffic must stop depending on the roadway:
- On a two-lane roadway when a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- On a two-lane roadway with a center turning lane, when a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- On a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation, when a school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.
- On a four-lane roadway without a median separation, when a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- On a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane, when a school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.
Georgia enforces fines and penalties for violating laws pertaining to passing a school bus, which can include a mandatory court appearance, up to $1,000 fine and/or 6 points on your Driving Record. A conviction for a driver under 21 years of age can result in license suspension.
The greatest risk for children is when they walk to enter or exit a school bus. The most common collision occurs near the school bus by a passing vehicle.
Certain counties in Georgia have already implemented cameras on their school buses to crack down on those violating these important safety laws. These hefty penalties are in place to ensure drivers are paying closer attention to children’s safety.
Tips from the National Safety Council
- Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you're on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load or unload children
- If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus
- Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks
There are numerous injuries and deaths each year in the state of Georgia. These tragic incidents can be avoided by being a prudent driver and abiding by the Georgia safety laws in place for school buses.