The Iowa Department of Transportation now has more penalties to hit drivers who pass the buses that are stopped and picking up students.
The D.O.T.’s director of driver services, Kim Snook, says you should be alert to a potential stop anytime you are on a roadway with a school bus. And then take action when you see the warning lights.
“It’s kind of like what we all learned in drivers ed, when you see yellow you slow down, you get prepared to stop. That’s exactly what you need to do with a school bus. When you see the yellow, slow down and assume you are going to stop, because when the red comes out you need to stop,” Snook says.
“And don’ proceed. If the stop arm is out there and the red light’s are on, stop.” Snook says after you properly stop for a bus, don’t be in too big a hurry to take off again.
“Even if it looks like all the kids have been discharged, just stay where you are at until the bus driver makes it very clear that you are able to proceed,” Snook explains. A law increasing the penalties for passing a stopped school bus was created following the death of seven year old Kadyn Halvorson of Northwood on May 10th of 2011.
Snook says they’ve found too many people are not paying attention to the bus laws. “A one day count conducted earlier this year was 43-point-seven percent compared to 38-point-two percent in 2011, that was the number of people illegally passing a school bus, that’s really significant,” according to Snook. “And when you think of the passengers in school buses, young children, it should be zero.”
Drivers may think stopping for a school bus will make them late, but Snook says you have to think about what could happen if you don’t.
She says there is precious cargo in the school buses, and while everyone is in a hurry, you always want to be aware of that and follow the law. Snook says you may think you are going to get to your destination faster, but you won’t.
Under the news rules, your driver’s license could be suspended for 30 days on the first conviction of illegally passing a school bus. That moves up to 90 days for a second conviction, and 180 days for a third or subsequent conviction. The law also allows for jail time of up to 30 days for the first offense and one year for repeat violators and also includes fines that start at $250 and move up.