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Munoz: Remember to respect school bus stop signs

school bus stop

SPRINGFIELD -   In Texas, school bus safety cameras captured the horrifying image of an SUV driver plowing into a student crossing the street after getting off the bus.

Thankfully, the student suffered only minor injuries, but as the video has made its rounds on the Internet, Illinois Senator Tony Munoz is reminding students and drivers of the dangers of distracted driving and that Illinois similarly empowers local schools to use school bus safety cameras.

munoz bus stop“You watch these videos and you want to scream: STOP! These are children just trying to get to school. I hope it serves as a wakeup call to motorists everywhere. When you see school buses, slow down, pay attention,” said Munoz, the Chicago Democrat and former police officer who sponsored the legislation that allowed Illinois school districts to implement traffic safety cameras on buses in 2014.

Across the country, these cameras routinely catch motorists speeding around buses, ignoring the stop arms and nearly hitting students. Police, however, can use the videos to identify vehicles and fine motorists. The cameras are meant to both deter and protect since every school can’t have a police escort at a time when motorists seem increasingly distracted.

During a one day study in May, more than 6,000 Illinois school bus drivers reported 2,700 violations, including motorists who ignored stop arms and passed or swerved around a stopped school bus. Nationally, more than 96,500 bus drivers reported nearly 74,500 such violations during the one-day survey.

“We’ve got to do better,” said Munoz. “These are children’s lives we’re talking about.”

The cameras are linked to the stop arms and police can review footage of vehicles that unlawfully pass a school bus. Drivers who ignore the stop arm face a $150 fine for the first violation and $500 for the second violation.

In Illinois, local school officials decide whether to use the cameras. The state doesn’t track which schools or buses have cameras or how many violations have been issued.

Resources:

National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transport Services - Stop Arm Violations

Pew Trusts - States use cameras to crack down on school bus scofflaws

National Conference of State Legislatures - Catching unlawful school bus passers with cameras


Stats

More than 450,000 yellow school buses transport 25 million children between school and home each day.

In the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington enacted such measures. Arkansas, North Carolina and West Virginia also have laws that address school bus cameras. Similar measures remained under consideration in New Jersey, New York and Maine as of July 2012. Measures failed in Alabama and Florida.

Rules of the road for school bus safety

School Buses/Zones

bus stop lanesWhen approaching a marked school zone between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on days  when  school  is  in session  and  children  are  present,  a  driver  must reduce speed to 20 mph, and stop and yield the right of way to any children or adults in the crosswalk area.

If a school bus is stopped on a two-lane road, you must stop before meeting or overtaking a school bus loading or unloading passengers. The bus driver will flash amber and red lights on the front and rear of the bus. The  stop  signal  arm  will  be  extended  after  the  school  bus  has  come  to  a complete  stop.  Motorists  must  remain  stopped  until  the  stop  signal  arm  is  no longer extended and the flashing lights are turned off or the driver signals a motorist to pass.

If a school bus is stopped on a four-lane road in the opposite direction from which the motorist is traveling, motorists are not required to stop their vehicles, but they should drive with caution.

Motorists convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus will have their driver’s  licenses  or  vehicle  registrations suspended  for  three months and be assessed a minimum $150 fine.

Source: Illinois Secretary of State’s Office

 

Media reports

Prospect Heights, Prospect Heights Elementary District 23

Rolling Meadows

Oakwood (Central Illinois)