Superintendent applauds new bus safety law

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2006

In this case, yellow means stop.

Gov. Bob Riley signed a new law last Wednesday increasing the penalties for drivers who choose to ignore school buses that are stopped to take on or let off passengers.

&#8220The most dangerous part of a school bus ride is when the bus stops.

Motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus have injured or killed 11 Alabama children since 1998.

No child, no family, should ever experience such a tragedy,” Riley said in an issued statement.

Other than the occasional report, Butler County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said the citizens of Butler County generally respect the stopping and starting of the school system's buses.

&#8220I think the people of Butler County do an excellent job of following all safety regulations as it concerns our buses,” he said. &#8220I've been really pleased with how the people here obey the law.”

Still, said Looney, it only takes one person not following the rules to seriously injure or kill a child. He applauded the passage of the new safety law, establishing a uniform penalty statewide for offenders who illegally pass stopped buses.

&#8220This will result in improved safety for motorists and for students riding Alabama school buses,” Joe Lightsey, program administrator of pupil transportation for the Alabama Department of Education, said.

The law also forbids drivers from passing a stopped school or church bus on any road. The only exception is for drivers traveling on a divided highway of at least four lanes, provided the driver is on the opposite side of the thoroughfare from the stopped bus.

Fines and punishments under the new law are as follows:

n First offense: Fine of $150 to $300.

n Second offense:

Fine of $300 to $500, suspension of the violator's driver's license for 30 days, and 100 hours of community service.

n Third offense: Fine of $500 to $1,000, a license suspension of 90 days and 200 hours of community service.

n Fourth offense: Prosecuted as a Class C felony, with a conviction punishable by a $1,000 to $3,000 fine and a one-year license suspension.