Students return to school this month, which means drivers heading to work must stop when school buses do.
If a driver doesn’t stop, he or she risks a ticket – and even a trip to jail.
Two Brookhaven drivers who didn’t properly stop for a school bus stop sign did find themselves headed to jail after police pulled them over and found they didn’t have proper licenses.
“It is not common to be arrested and jailed for failure to stop at a school bus stop sign,” said Carlos Nino, a spokesperson for Brookhaven police.
“Normally, a traffic stop of that nature results in the driver’s compliance and they are cited and released at the location of the traffic stop.”
But police write plenty of tickets for school bus stop-arm scofflaws.
Between January 1 and May 5, Sandy Springs police cited 76 drivers with overtaking and passing a school bus. Dunwoody police cited three motorists, while Brookhaven police gave five warnings and cited 20 drivers with passing school buses.
Atlanta Public Schools reported no citations through early May, but that could be changing. Internal cameras on school buses are being upgraded, and when the project is complete, there will be cameras on the bulkhead, driver’s side and on the rear of each bus, Open Records Administrator Kent Johnson said. External cameras were to be added to capture photos of stop-arm violations, he said.
So, when do you stop?
Where no median divides the road, all drivers – those headed in both directions – must stop when a school bus extends its stop-sign-bearing arm, Nino said.
Police admit there can be confusion at times for drivers who trained in the ways of the road before buses regularly rolled down divided highways and four-lane roads.
“If there is a cement or grass median in the roadway, the drivers on the same side of the school bus are supposed to stop,” Nino said. “Drivers on the other side are free to go.”
There also can be confusion about when a driver a must stop.
“The other misconception is whether or not the bus has to be completely stopped and the stop sign is completely out,” Nino said. “One of our municipal court judges said when the red blinking light is out, all drivers have to stop.”
One of the most common excuses police get from drivers who fail to stop is that they didn’t see the light, stop sign or bus. Nino said that’s no excuse.
Another common excuse is claiming “I’m not from around here,” Nino said. Cops won’t buy it. “I’m sure your state has laws that mirror Georgia’s,” Nino said.