Super: Passing stopped buses is huge issue

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2017

People failing to stop for stopped buses is becoming a problem again for Covington County Schools.

Covington County Superintendent Shannon Driver said that the issue has been going on for quite some time.

“We’ve had law enforcement patrol trouble areas along with resource officers whenever they are available, but it is a difficult thing to monitor,” he said.

Alabama state law forbids drivers from passing a stopped school bus on any road. The only exception is when you’re on the opposing side of a divided highway with a median separating opposing traffic.

In fact, one local bus driver posted to social media that on her bus route, her bus stop arm is run every day.

In recent weeks, she reported that her stopped bus was passed six times on Hwy. 29 North between Andalusia Garden Center and the Heath River Falls Road.

Covington County is not immune to accidents involving stopped school buses.

In October 2015, an Opp school bus had just loaded students at the intersection of Hwy. 84 and Substation Road on its morning bus route, when it was struck in the rear by a Mercedes.

Seven children were transported to Mizell Memorial Hospital and a 40-year-old man died at the scene.

In October 2014, a Straughn School bus was involved in a three-vehicle accident, but there were not injuries when a vehicle struck another vehicle stopped behind a bus.

In October 2010, two people were injured after their vehicle rear-ended a school bus carrying Straughn students.

The incident occurred on an afternoon bus route at the intersection of Airport Road and County Road 67. The bus was stopped.

Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks said that if his department catches someone passing a stopped bus or if the bus driver or citizen is able to get a tag number or description of the vehicle, they will cite them.

“It’s against the law,” he said. “It’s very dangerous. You never know what a child is going to do. They may forget something and turn around and go back and get it.

“We encourage the school bus drivers to get a tag number and a good description of the vehicle and the driver,” he said. “If they can do that, that individual will be cited. We also encourage other motorists who witness it to do the same. We want to protect our children.”

Meeks said that he guarantees that if you are cited for passing a stopped school bus, the court will not look favorably upon you. In the 2016 legislative session, Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, who represents Covington County in the state senate, sponsored a bill that would allow for a $300 fine statewide for any motorist a video proves illegally passed a stopped school bus.

“We have cameras on our buses but they don’t provide adequate view for things like this,” Driver said. “We have discussed upgrading some of our bus cameras that are in some of the more trouble-prone areas to improve this type of monitoring.”