- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
During a one-day survey, participating Charles County school bus drivers reported that 128 drivers failed to stop when their bus stop signals were on.
The Maryland State Department of Education-sponsored survey was taken in April. This is the third year for the survey, and data indicate that while drivers continue to pass the stop arms on school buses, there has been some progress.
“Schools are set to open, and student safety is our paramount concern. Drivers must understand that it is illegal to pass a bus with its stop arm extended and its lights flashing,” wrote State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery in a press release from MSDE.
According to the release, stop arms swing out from a bus and lights flash whenever it is making an on-roadway student pickup. A total of 3,392 violations of school bus stop arms were recorded on a single day last spring, fewer than half the total of the initial survey in 2011, when more than 7,000 violations were recorded. Violations in the state dropped to 4,657 last year.
Of the Charles County school system's fleet of 276 buses, 227 responded to the survey in April, reporting the 128 violations.
In 2011, 156 bus drivers volunteered to participate in the survey and 213 violations were reported.
School system spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson said it is a concern anytime a car passes a school bus while its emergency equipment, such as the red lights and stop arm are activated.
She said that doing so is dangerous and “presents a life-threatening situation for children.”
O'Malley-Simpson said the school system is pleased that more bus drivers participated in the survey this year, and that the number of violations decreased.
“The decrease shows that more people are following the law and paying attention to school buses, “but we need everyone to pay attention,” she said.
Panalties of up to $570 and three points on a violator's driver's license could result from a violation.
MSDE coordinated the survey along with school transportation directors in all 24 school systems. It is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the roads. More than 70 percent of the Maryland school bus drivers took part in the survey, compared to 63 percent completing the survey last year according to an MSDE release.
The survey was undertaken at the behest of a number of members of the Maryland General Assembly, which has been monitoring school bus safety. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services is coordinating surveys of this type in all 50 States. The first day of school for Charles County Public Schools is Aug. 26.