Drivers: Give School Children a “Brake”!
As Montana children head back to school this fall, let’s give our children the “brake” they need by exercising patience and caution around school buses and in school zones. Law Enforcement Agencies from across the state urge motorists to know the law and practice the following safe driving procedures:
►SCHOOL BUS STOPS
Be on the alert as children walk to and from their school bus stops. Exercise care and be responsive as children congregate and wait at their bus stops. They may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely. Be ready to act when one sees the yellow flashing lights on the front and the rear of a school bus. This is a driver’s warning that a bus stop is about to take place. Begin to slow down and look for students in the area. Never speed up to beat a school bus. Drivers must be focused and exercise caution any time they are in the vicinity of a school bus stop, as student riders can sometimes be impulsive.
Abide by the law when a school bus comes to a full stop and one sees the flashing red lights activate and the stop arm deploy. Motorists are required to stop in nearly every instance.
Upon meeting or passing from either direction any school bus stopped with its red lights flashing, the driver of a vehicle must stop at least 30 feet from the bus and cannot proceed until the red lights are turned off (Pictures A and B). If you approach a bus from either direction that is slowing down in preparation to stop to load passengers, or a bus displaying a yellow flashing light, you must slow down and proceed carefully. Keep in mind that the bus is about to stop and children may be in the road. You do not need to stop if meeting or passing a school bus that is on a different road (Picture B) or is stopped in an adjacent loading zone where pedestrians are not allowed to cross the road.
The maximum school bus pass violation fine is $500 in addition to points added to your driver’s license. Depending on the severity of the incident, a bad bus pass can fall into the reckless driving category, which is a five-point violation in addition to fines and possible time in jail.
Develop the habit of checking your speed and slowing down near any school at all hours. Children walking or bicycling to school often ignore or don’t understand traffic control so they cross streets and parking lots wherever it is convenient. They often do not check for an appropriate gap or for the right of way when crossing streets. Remember that fines double in school zones and officers enforce a strict policy on speed violations in or near school zones.
Drivers must always yield to pedestrians in school crosswalks. There may or may not be school crossing guards to assist with safe pedestrian crossing. Drivers should stop before crosswalks so other drivers can also see pedestrians.
Remember that every child is a human caution sign and as unpredictable as Montana’s weather. In the coming weeks, as schools get back in full swing, law enforcement agencies are combing efforts and increasing patrols on school bus routes and in school zones. Officers will also be following school buses in areas where there are a high number of reported violations in an effort to keep our children safe.
Chief Mike Brady
Missoula City Police Department
Sheriff T.J. McDermott
Missoula County Sheriff
Capt. Jim Kitchin
Commander, Montana Highway Patrol District 1