Thursday, January 18, 2007
With weather and road conditions as they are, it is more important than ever to heed the rules and regulations of the road. This includes stopping for school buses when the red lights are flashing.
"It's just like stopping at a stop sign," Dale Fleischbein, transportation supervisor for Grandview School District, said. "We expect them to stop, it's the law."
Grandview Assistant Police Chief Mark Ware told the Daily Sun News that RCW 46.61.370 defines when a driver must stop for a school bus.
The RCW, or state law, requires a motorist to stop before reaching a school bus stopped on the roadway for the purpose of receiving or dropping off school children. The school bus must have its red lights flashing or the stop paddle displayed.
The motorist may not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer activated.
A motorist meeting a school bus on a highway divided into separate roadways need not stop upon meeting a school bus. It's the same on a highway with three marked traffic lanes.
The fine for violating RCW 46.61.370 is $363. Fleischbein said the reason the ticket is so expensive is because a student can get hurt. He said he believes drivers have been cited seven times this school year.
"On lady even passed the bus on the right side, where the students are dropped off," he said. "Her excuse was she didn't want to wait for the bus."
Ware said if a bus driver see someone commit an infraction they file a report on a standard form they are issued. He said the bus driver tries to provide as much information as possible, i.e. date, time, location, vehicle description and a description of the driver, if possible.
The bus driver must file the report with the police department within 72 hours. An officer is assigned to investigate the complaint and the owner of the vehicle is contacted and information about who was driving the vehicle is obtained.
RCW 46.61.371 states the owner of the vehicle must supply information to the officer about who was driving their vehicle to the best of their ability. The owner does not have to supply information if they believe it will be self-incriminating.
"A lot of times they will admit it," said Sergeant Joey Glossen, a school resource officer supervisor in Sunnyside. "If the description is good enough, we can issue a ticket."
"That's why it is important to have a basic physical description of the violator on the bus driver's report," Ware added. "We have to be able to prove a specific person was the driver before we can issue a citation."
Fleischbein said the bus driver will activate the amber lights, yellow flashing caution lights, 100 to 300 feet before the bus stops.
"This lets people know the bus will be stopping," he said. "It's a warning."
He told of one lady who met a school bus stopped to let students off. She stopped in front of the bus, looked at the driver, then continued along her way.
"We take these investigations seriously," Ware said. "The safety of our children is of the utmost importance to us. A driver who does not observe the rules of the road in these instances runs the risk of causing significant injury to a child. That is totally unacceptable. We do our best to investigate these complaints to the fullest extent and issue a citation to any violator we can identify."