One of the Iowa State Patrol’s safety education officers says many drivers aren’t aware of traffic laws regarding school buses. Trooper Vince Kurtz says there are a number of reasons people get ticketed.
“I think, by and large, the biggest one is going to be distractions and people not paying attention to what’s going on, on the road,” Kurtz says. “On top of that, I don’t think especially a lot of the younger drivers don’t know how to react to a school bus that’s stopping on the roadway.”
On a highway where the posted speed limit may be 55 miles an hour, a vehicle must reduce its speed to 20 miles an hour when approaching a school bus that has its lights flashing, then come to a complete stop when that red stop sign gets extended from the side of the vehicle and the bus stops.
“Cars that are approaching the school bus from the front — and by that I mean not following the bus, but approaching from the front — they don’t understand, they don’t realize that they are required to stop when that stop sign comes out and the red lights (on the bus) start flashing,” Kurtz says. “Both directions of traffic are required to stop for that school bus.”
Iowa lawmakers significantly increased the penalties for passing a stopped school bus in 2012 after a girl from Northwood was struck and killed as she crossed a highway to board a stopped school bus. The fine is now at least 250-dollars for a first violation and the convicted driver loses their license to drive for a month.
Trooper Kurtz is based in the Iowa State Patrol’s Spencer office, which serves the following northwest Iowa counties: Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Palo Alto, Sioux, Buena Vista, Cherokee and Plymouth.
(Reporting by Ryan Long, KICD, Spencer; additional reporting, editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)