Transporting the students of Kent County is a very important business. “Our main concern is safety. We maintain our buses in safe condition and they are inspected by the MVA and county inspectors. Both drivers, attendants and students are given instruction in safety.”
One of the greatest hazards for buses comes from motorists who do not observe the school bus lighting system. In Kent County we use an 8-light school bus warning system. These lights are located on the front and rear of the bus near the top where you see the SCHOOL BUS sign. The lamps are used to warn other traffic about what the school bus is doing. When the bus is approaching a loading or unloading area, the yellow lights will flash. Red lights will flash when the bus is stopped to load or unload students and a stop arm will be extended from the side of the bus.
This system was adopted because it more closely follows other traffic regulations. The alternately flashing yellow lights mean CAUTION to other motorists because the bus is preparing to stop. The flashing red lights and stop arm mean STOP. Motorists are required to stop at least 20 feet from a stopped school bus that is displaying flashing red lights and stop arm.
One of the most frequent complaints of school bus drivers is that other motorists do not obey the school bus stop law. “We have several of these reports each month from our bus drivers. Each time a motorist violates the school bus stop law, he or she creates a real hazard for the students who are boarding or leaving the bus. We haven’t had anyone get hurt yet, but there have been some close calls. To date we have had 13 reported incidents of motorists not adhering to the school bus stop law for the current school year.”
During the 2000 legislative session, House Bill 104- Vehicle Laws-Drivers Failing to Stop for School Buses-Enforcement Initiative was passed by the Maryland General Assembly. This bill established a five year program, which became effective on January 1, 2001, to provide grant funds to assist law enforcement agencies in addressing the problem of drivers illegally passing school vehicles. During the 2002 Maryland General Assembly, Senate Bill 323, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2002, made the School Bus Safety Enforcement Program permanent by deleting the sunset provision of the law which had created the program.
Kent County Public Schools has been working closely with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office through the grant from the General Assembly for Kent County. The police have been given all the bus routes for the buses in Kent County. The police observe and patrol school bus routes and traffic along school bus routes, writing citations and warnings related solely to school bus enforcement, and preparing any necessary follow-up paperwork directly related to citations and warnings issued for violations of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Transportation Article, Section 21-706.
School bus drivers report incidents of violation through the radios that are located on all buses to the Board of Education and the information is than given to Kent Central. In some cases the violator may be immediately identified and found through the direct link of communication which we have with the police and our radio system. The bus drivers always follow up with a written report. We monitor the number of citations and the location in order to evaluate possible additional monitoring and enforcement for a specific area.
The fine for not stopping for a school bus activated overhead and red light is $570.00 and 3 points. The fine for stopping for a school bus activated overhead red lights and then proceeding through (failing to remain stopped) is $570.00 and 2 points. The fine has been doubled through legislation within the past 2 years.