A three-day survey by the New York State Association for Pupil Transportation, conducted on March 1, 4, and 5 this year in which school bus drivers in five Franklin County school districts plus the Akwesasne Early Child Development Program counted the number of vehicles that illegally passed their buses while stopped with red lights flashing, yielded astonishing results. The survey counted 21 illegal passes during just those three days, and this didn't even include all the school districts in the county.
April is the month where more enforcement is directed at motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus. Over the past six years, at least six "Did You Know" articles have dealt with this problem, including applicable vehicle and traffic laws.
No motorist wants to hit a child. So, what is happening in Franklin County that so many motorists are illegally passing stopped school buses? Do our local drivers not know the law? Are we in such a hurry that we disregard the safety of our children and pass a bus that is loading or discharging our children? Are we so distracted by cell phones, eating, changing the radio or CD, primping, or whatever that we just don't see these buses?
The results of the 3-day survey revealed the following number of illegal passes:
-Saranac Lake - 3
-Salmon River - 4
-Malone - 11
-Early Child Development Program -?3
Brushton-Moira and St. Regis Falls had no illegal passes. Of interest, the three-day survey was also conducted in nine school districts in St. Lawrence County. However, there were only five illegal passes in those nine districts.
In response to this problem, the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board coordinated enforcement action with the Malone Village Police Department and the New York State Police. On April 18, three tickets were issued during the morning bus run in Malone. One ticket was issued during the afternoon run in Brushton. A second enforcement detail was conducted on April 25 in Brushton, but with no tickets issued.
Fines for illegally passing a stopped school bus range from $250 to $850, plus surcharges, and can include up to 180 days in jail. In addition, the driver receives five points against his/her license.
Based on the potential severity of passing a stopped school bus, you can expect more enforcement of the applicable laws. This is a serious traffic problem that won't be tolerated in Franklin County.
Just in case you are ignorant of the applicable laws, it is illegal to drive past a stopped school bus with red lights flashing from either direction, including multi-lane roads and divided highways as well as on school grounds including parking lots.
For more "Did You Know" articles go to the Traffic Safety Board's website at www.franklincony.org and click on the Traffic Safety Board under "Departments."