Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra Tuesday released a public service announcement aimed at increasing drivers’ awareness around school buses -- and the stop arm law designed to protect students.
“This awareness campaign is part of our ongoing efforts to protect students with programs ranging from our anti-bullying campaign, safe and drug free schools’ grants, and the KISS initiative. We want students safe from the moment they leave their home until they return after school,” Ybarra said. “I urge drivers to take extra caution, whenever you see a school bus with its lights on and stop arm extended.”
State law says bus drivers should report stop arm violations to law enforcement officers, so they can locate the driver and issue a citation. More and more buses are equipped with on-board cameras to capture the license plate number of the vehicle. Idaho Code says that the owner of the vehicle is responsible for the citation, unless they can prove someone else was driving -- in which case the other person is cited.
The fine for a violation of the stop arm law can run from $100 to $500 -- and includes adding four points on the violator’s driver’s license.
“It’s been a long time since driver’s training for some people, so they may have forgotten the rules,” said Derek Newland, Director of Student Transportation for the State Department of Education.
On a road of three lanes or less (which could include a turning lane), vehicles in both directions must stop when a school bus displays its stop arm, he said. On a road greater than three lanes, only those vehicles going in the same direction as the bus must stop. Newland said bus routes are designed to prevent children having to cross multiple lanes of traffic to board a bus.
Last year, Newland sent out a survey to school districts asking them for the number of stop arm violation reports they received for the month of November. A total of 48 districts responded, with more than 600 violations reported.
“Some people,” Newland said, “say bus drivers are just trying to entrap them” by sticking out the stop arm at the last minute. But, he pointed out, the yellow/amber warning lights come on 8-10 seconds before the bus stops and the driver extends its stop arm. “That’s like a yellow light coming on at a traffic light. It tells you that it’s time to come to a stop,” he said.
A study by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services showed that, in a one-day national snapshot survey of more than 100,000 bus drivers in 2018, more than three out of every four of those drivers reported at least one stop arm violation that day.