School officials warn of bus violationsDrivers are asked to start seeing school buses. Whether due to summer driving habits, inattentiveness or ignorance of the law, area school districts have reported a number of illegal maneuvers from motorists since classes began Sept. 3.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Drivers are asked to start seeing school buses. Whether due to summer driving habits, inattentiveness or ignorance of the law, area school districts have reported a number of illegal maneuvers from motorists since classes began Sept. 3.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a vehicle that approaches a stopped school bus displaying flashing red warning lights must stop at least 20 feet from the bus and remain stopped until the bus resumes motion or the operator extinguishes the flashing red warning lights.
“For some reason, every year, we get drivers who don’t think they need to stop,” said Dave Korhonen, director of buildings, grounds and transportation for the School District of Maple.
Failure to follow the law can leave a dent in a driver’s wallet — the fine for passing a school bus illegally is almost $327.
At least six incidents have been filed in Maple since the school year started, and those are just the drivers whose license numbers were captured.
Korhonen estimated there have been close to a dozen illegal bus-passing incidents. In Superior, such incidents happen about once a week, according to Transportation Director Tom Geisler.
“It’s a universal problem,” he said, and it happens on both rural and city routes.
Korhonen said some people may not be aware of the full law. When it states cars must stop 20 feet from the bus, it means that cars in both lanes, as well as those heading in both directions, must stop. Unless there’s a median dividing the highway, Korhonen said, both drivers behind the bus and those in front of it (in some cases four lanes of traffic) must stop.
In Maple, the majority of illegal passing incidents take place in the afternoon along U.S. Highway 2. In Superior, more drivers pass buses illegally on morning routes.
Bus drivers start flashing warning red lights 100 feet before their planned stop. That is not a signal for drivers to hurry up and pass, Korhonen said.
“When you see red lights flashing, you should be anticipating slowing down” and stopping, he said. It takes about 10 seconds to unload students once the bus is stopped, according to Korhonen. And bus drivers are trained to pace their route in ways that help clear traffic behind them, Geisler said.
Neither newsletter reminders nor bright LED lights on buses have impacted driving habits in Maple.
In Superior, a special traffic cam can be installed on any of the buses. Currently, it’s on a Billings Park area bus route, according to Geisler. The camera automatically records while the flashing lights are on, ready to catch violators in the act.
A new form created by area law enforcement has expedited the process of sending out citations. It can be filled out, faxed in to authorities and a citation can be in the mail within four hours, Geisler said.
In his five years with the Maple district, Korhonen said, few drivers have challenged the citation. And none of those who raised a challenge have won.
School districts have taken precautions and sent out the message. Now, it’s up to drivers to do their part.
Drivers are asked to be alert for school buses, especially between 7-9 a.m. and 3-5 p.m., what Geisler calls “bell times.”
“They should be attentive,” he said. “It’s school time.”