Georgia sees drop in number of cars illegally passing stopped school buses

Lauren Williams's picture
Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Each school day across Georgia, thousands of drivers illegally pass school buses when a stop arm is down, endangering children as they enter and exit buses.

Data collected voluntarily by districts statewide during a one-day survey in the spring shows that 6,807 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses, down from 7,349 last year and 8,102 in 2011. Still, the numbers are likely higher than that because not all of the state’s 178 school districts with bus programs turned in data.

“I am glad to see the numbers are declining, but more than 6,000 illegal passes of buses with stop arms down is very alarming,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. “I ask the public to please pay close attention to school buses and watch for their stop signals. Student safety should be a priority for everyone in the community, not just parents and schools.”

Since 1995, 13 Georgia students have died when they were struck by motorists at the school bus stop.

As students across the state return to school, the Georgia Department of Education and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety urge motorists to use caution when approaching a school bus and to brush up on the law regarding passing a bus.

According to Georgia law, vehicles traveling in BOTH directions must stop when a school bus activates its stop-arm on a two-lane road or a multi-lane road with no median or barrier. Vehicles travelling in the same direction as a school bus must always stop, but motorists travelling in the opposite direction can proceed (with caution) when there is an unpaved median or concrete barrier separating the opposing lanes.

“The reduction in violations is an indication that more Georgians are learning and obeying the stop arm law,” said Harris Blackwood, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “However, this is still too many and we must continue to educate the public in order to better protect our students.”

Georgia’s survey is part of a nationwide effort by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) aiming to shed light on the dangerous habit of ignoring stop arms on buses. The statewide data was collected April 25, 2013, by 130 Georgia school districts who volunteered to participate.

This year NASDPTS reported that 85,279 stop-arm violations were recorded by nearly 108,000 school bus drivers in 29 states. Those sample results mean that during a 180-day school year, nearly 15 million motorists ignore buses’ flashing red lights and stop arms.

For more information on the NASDPTS survey, click here.