New school bus traffic law takes effect Sunday

By Staff
Jason Cannon FCT Publisher
Franklin County motorists now have a little more incentive to be careful when sharing the roads with school buses.
Beginning Sunday, penalties have been increased for illegally passing a school bus while it is stopped to load or unload students on any state road, highway, roadway, school property or private road.
Penalties range from a fine of no less than $150 and no more than $300 for the first offense to being charged with a Class C felony teamed with a fine of up to $3000 and having your driver's license suspended for one year for a fourth offense.
According to a survey conducted by the Alabama Department of Education, there were 1,862 documented illegal passes of school buses on one day in 2005.
"It's a problem," Franklin County Director of Transportation Johnny Hester said. "I've ridden along with the drivers and seen people passing buses with the (stop) arm out."
Hester said there hasn't been an accident this school year but feels like without some changes in the public's driving habits, one could be just around the bend.
"I think the law is a good thing," he said. "If nothing else it will make (drivers) think a little more."
County bus drivers, Hester said, conduct random checks once per year and write up all violations they find.
"Every year, just about every one of the drivers will have complaints, most of them about cars passing a stopped bus," he said.
Russellville Director of Transportation Don Cox said the city too had not seen an accident this year but also welcomed the change. The Alabama Department of Education estimates that more than 7000 school buses transport more than 350,000 students to and from school every day in Alabama.
"Most of the children injured or killed in school bus-related accidents are hit by motorists illegally passing a stopped bus," said Joe Lightsey, State Pupil Transportation Director for the Alabama Department of Education. "Alabama's children are our most precious resource and the School Bus Illegal Passing Law provides them with more protection."