On an average weekday morning, a school bus approaches its pick-up spot. The bright yellow lights are turned on as the bus slows to a halt. Next, the red lights begin flashing, and the stop arm is extended.
To a student, the flashing lights and stop sign mean it is now safe to approach and load the bus. To a motorist, the same stopped bus means a brief interruption in their daily commute.
The motorist may, however, make a hasty decision to pass the school bus, and tragedy could ensue.
This nightmare scenario is unfortunately playing out too often on Fayetteville’s streets. According to the Fayetteville Police Department, officers have received alarming information regarding motorists ignoring the law and failing to stop for school buses loading and unloading.
“The safety of the children in our community is a priority,” Fayetteville Chief of Police Richard Howell said last week. “Starting immediately, our department will be conducting a campaign to observe motorists and take action towards the ones who do not follow the state law.”
A single motorist using poor judgement can quickly turn an ordinary situation into a perilous one. Passing a stopped school bus will not always result in a tragic accident, but it will always result in a greater risk of injury or death to the children.
According to Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A 55-8-151), drivers coming from either direction are not to pass a school bus that has the sign activated and is receiving or discharging children unless the roadway is divided by an intervening space not suitable for vehicle traffic, such as grass, a median, concrete barrier, etc. All vehicles coming from either direction on a four-lane highway with a continuous left turn lane must stop for the bus, state law mandates.
Violating the stop for school bus law means a class “A” misdemeanor charge with fines of $250 to $1,000. If the violation leads to a vehicular homicide, the reckless killing of another by the operation of an automobile, the motorist could receive a felony charge, loss of his or her driver’s license and a prison sentence.
Will Fayetteville drivers comply? Chief Howell is optimistic, saying, “We hope this campaign will make motorist more aware of the law regarding stopping for buses and feel it will be a success.”