One of the most common, and unpunishable violations in South Carolina relates to school bus stop arms. The stop arm is there to stop drivers from passing by in order to safely allow kids on or off the bus. Yet according to the Association for Pupil Transportation, there are 280 school bus stop arm violations in South Carolina every day. That is potentially 280 children’s lives that are being put at risk, simply because cars don’t want to be stuck behind a stopped bus.
Before 2014, the only way a driver could be punished for passing a stopped bus was if an officer saw the violation happen firsthand and wrote the ticket on the scene. Then in 2014, a law was passed that allowed buses to mount cameras on the dash to record if a driver passed them while they were stopped. While this seemed like a solution to the problem, drivers, more often than not, continued to go unpunished.
You may ask yourself why. If cameras were catching drivers in the act of violating stopped bus laws, why couldn’t officers use the footage to enforce those laws and punish the violator? The answer is because as the law stands now, the camera must clearly show the driver’s face in order for them to be ticketed. While a dash camera on the bus will clearly catch the car in the act, it often won’t be close enough, clear enough, or at the right angle to identify the driver.
Bus drivers and members of the SAVE campaign brought their concerns to the state house however, and caught the attention of Senator Wes Hayes.
According to one member of the SAVE campaign, highway patrol issued 42 tickets total for stop arm violations last year in South Carolina, yet there are 42 violations per hour in the state. In response, Senator Hayes introduced a new bill that would issue a $500 citation to the registered owner of the vehicle caught on the bus camera. With this proposition, cameras would only have to catch the plate number on the car, instead of a clear image of the driver.
While this seems like a successful way to deter drivers from breaking stopped bus laws, the bill has yet to be heard and at this point in the year, it’s highly unlikely it will be passed this session.
Since at this point, there’s no sure and enforceable law to punish drivers who pass stopped buses, it’s up to drivers to be responsible and take the stop arms seriously. Every time the stop arm is disregarded, a child’s life could potentially be put at risk. As responsible drivers, it’s our job to know the current laws regarding whether or not to pass a stopped bus, and to follow them accordingly.
If your child or someone you know has been the victim of a school bus accident or school bus traffic law violation, and the driver has been identified, contact the lawyers at Steinberg Law Firm. We can be reached 24 hours a day online or by phone at 843-720-2800.