By CLINT FOSTER
The State of Texas has stepped up fines on passing school buses in loading or unloading zones in the wake of an enlightening April study.
On April 10 of this year, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conducted its third annual National Illegal Passing Survey. In one day, 108,000 school bus drivers in 29 states throughout the country reported 85,279 vehicles passed their buses illegally while the buses stop signs were extended and children were loading or unloading.
“There are nearly a half million school buses on the road each day in the United States,” NASDPTS President Max Christensen said, “This survey captured only a fraction of the violations that bus drivers and other professionals in school transportation and law enforcement know are occurring each and every day. Students are far safer in school buses than other ways of getting to school, but when they are outside the bus in the danger zone, they are quite vulnerable. Any driver who passes a stopped school bus illegally is gambling with a child’s life.”
Most MWISD school buses are on the roads from 6:30-8:15 a.m. and 3-5:30 p.m., but the district also has a few buses that have routes in between, according to Mineral Wells ISD Transportation Director Randy Gover.
Gover said the home of the Rams participated in the survey this year. He reported that, in one day, 13 local drivers illegally passed stopped MWISD school buses. In all, on April 10, 9,825 such violations were recorded in the Lone Star State.
Since the survey was conducted, Texas State Legislators passed House Bill 1174, which raised the minimum fines for the misdemeanor offense of passing a stopped school bus with its stop sign extended to between $200 and $500.
Mineral Wells Chief of Police Dean Sullivan said his officers have maintained vigilance on this subject as long as he has been in town.
He described various tactics the MWPD uses to enforce this law.
“We will occassionally deploy an officer on a school bus and we’ll have trailing officers that watch for violations of this,” he explained. “We also have a complaint procedure in place with the Mineral Wells ISD bus barn. If they have a problematic route, then we’ll deploy that tactic or a couple other tactics to try to monitor and ensure the children’s safety... The safety of the children is paramount.”
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