School has been in session only a month and already there have been six school bus stop arm violations reported to the Union County Law Enforcement Center.
Creston Community School buses are equipped with cameras that activate every time the stop arm is deployed. These cameras have the ability to shoot high-definition video of the vehicle passing illegally and capture a clear image of its license plate as it passes. With the video evidence, law enforcement does not need to be present to witness the violation for a ticket to be issued. They simply have to write the ticket and mail it to the vehicle owner.
Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon said he believes a lot of people aren’t aware that there are many stops in residential areas for children with special transportation needs.
“I think people maybe have this idea that school buses are only out there at the loading and unloading areas, or out in the country where you might have a farm residence,” said Kenyon. “There are also a number of students that have special transportation needs, so there are smaller school buses, and they’re still marked as school buses, that make regular routes around town. So you could be in a residential district, but if a student has a special transportation need, they may have a school bus that goes to that area to pick that student up.”
On May 3, 2017, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conducted a survey in which it asked school bus drivers around the state of Iowa to keep track of the number of stop arm violations they witnessed. In that single day, there were 267 violations, or 267 times that a driver could have caused the serious injury or death of a child.
There is only one instance in which a driver does not have to stop for a school bus with the stop arm extended. On roads with four or more lanes, drivers approaching the school bus from the front, driving in the opposite direction of the bus, do not need to stop. Unless official traffic control devices are in place or law enforcement is present to direct traffic, buses are not permitted to load and unload children who must cross this type of roadway.
Put down the cell phone, urged Kenyon. Nothing is so important that drivers need to take their mind off the road.
“What I have been told by traffic personnel, it’s the issue of being distracted,” said Kenyon. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a phone that you can put on speaker and you can be watching what you’re doing. You’re still talking to someone else. You’re not devoting 100 percent of your attention to the two ton vehicle that’s traveling down the road that potentially could cause harm to people or property. That’s what the experts say. Just because your hands are free, doesn’t mean you’re not distracted.”
Penalties for stop arm violations begin at $250 fine and/or up to one year imprisonment and a mandatory 30-day suspension of the driver’s license for the first offense. If a driver is charged with three violations within a five-year period, the fine is no less than $315 and/or one year imprisonment and a mandatory 180-day suspension of driving privileges.