A one-day survey conducted in late April showed that a higher number of motorists illegally passed school buses than the year before.
An “alarming” 884 instances occurred on April 24, 2019, up from 872 a year ago when the last survey was taken. The Arkansas Department of Education reported that all school districts — 3,896 bus drivers representing 227 school districts – complied with the one-day survey.
“I want to thank the bus drivers and school districts for participating in this year’s survey,” said Jerry Owens, senior transportation manager for the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation. “Never before have we achieved almost 100% participation by districts. This indicates that our bus drivers and school districts are making school bus safety a priority and are expressing their concern about the high number of instances regarding illegal passes of stopped school buses. I believe motorists are becoming more aware of the law, but one instance is one too many. Let’s all do our part to ensure our students arrive to and from school safely. Remember: Flashing Red. Kids Ahead.”
During the April 24 morning and afternoon bus routes, bus drivers recorded the number of instances where motorists passed stopped school buses that had their red lights flashing. According to Act 166 of 2019, it is illegal for motorists to pass a stopped bus with its red lights flashing, as students are getting on and off the bus at that time. If convicted, the fines for doing so range from $500 to $2,500.
Of the 884 instances, survey results show that 491 instances occurred during the afternoon versus 393 in the morning. A total of 711 motorists passed from the front of the bus. While a small number, 12 instances occurred where motorists passed on the right side of the bus where students enter and exit the bus. This is compared to 872 instances where motorists passed on the bus driver’s left side.
“In almost every case, motorists who are traveling in the opposite direction of the bus also must stop when they see a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing,” Owens said. “In these cases, students may need to cross the road in front of the bus to get to their destination.”
The Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation conducts the survey each year at the request of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.