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Bus stop scofflaws draw parent, police ire

A public school bus stops in busy traffic on Webb Gin House Road in Snellville, delivering students home from A.C. Crews Middle School on Friday. Neighbors are concerned about drivers not stopping for school bus student drop off and pick ups near the intersection of Moon Place Road and Webb House Gin Road

A public school bus stops in busy traffic on Webb Gin House Road in Snellville, delivering students home from A.C. Crews Middle School on Friday. Neighbors are concerned about drivers not stopping for school bus student drop off and pick ups near the intersection of Moon Place Road and Webb House Gin Road

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Kim Gore's home overlooks a three-lane stretch of Webb Gin House Road in Snellville that's served lately as a troubling vantage point. For years, she's watched her two sons embark Gwinnett Public School buses in the mornings, and disembark in the afternoons.

Nearby Craig Elementary and A.C. Crews Middle schools run, in Gore's estimation, more than 30 buses as the schools collect students and, later, send them home. That makes for a lot of traffic. And, apparently, a lot of impatient drivers.

On "bad" days, Gore said she counts between eight and 10 cars, trucks and business vehicles blowing past buses unloading or loading students. It's gotten to the point, Gore said, that students on the bus routinely call out tag numbers to the driver.

Still, she said, most infractors get away.

"Unless I can get a tag number, call the police and report it, they get away," said Gore, a realtor who's lived in her home 25 years. "My child hates it when I go out to the bus stop. I admit, some mornings yelling and waving my arms to get (drivers') attention is too much."

Hers is a problem police agencies across Gwinnett have worked for years to stamp out. Their tactics differ, but all have a common goal -- to catch drivers who disobey extendable stop signs and flashing lights on school buses.

Data provided by two agencies with programs geared to specifically catch school bus stop violators show more than 60 drivers were cited in Gwinnett in the first days after K-12 school began Aug. 8.

Duluth police busted a daily average of four drivers passing stopped school buses loading or unloading students in the first eight days of school. Gwinnett police launched a similar initiative this year, using motorcycle officers to follow buses on their normal routes and monitor driver behavior. They cited 29 drivers, said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter.

Those 61 tickets, officials said, underscore the need for a program like Duluth's "Operation Safe Stop," launched in 2006 to heighten student safety as the school year unfolds.

No recent injuries have been reported in Gwinnett. Duluth police Lt. Bill Stephens said three metro Atlanta students were killed while unloading or loading school buses in 2009.

Gwinnett schools spokesman Jorge Quintana said the system is looking into equipping buses with stop-arm cameras to catch the tag numbers of violators. No buses currently have cameras, and school officials keep no stats on violators, he said.

"The district does not keep (stats) as several police departments within the county are the agencies that enforce the law," Quintana said.

How they go about enforcing the law varies.

In Suwanee, police spokesman Capt. Clyde Byers said officers with the selective enforcement unit are following up on complaints from bus drivers and residents. "(Officers) are sitting on areas where we have reports of drivers passing stopped buses," he said.

In bygone years, Byers said police would run radar in school zones, but a disagreement between cities and the county over how services like public safety should be paid for is preventing that. State officials yanked certification for most local departments to use radar in January.

In Snellville, police conduct "periodical spot checks" throughout the school year that can increase if a spike in violations is detected, said Carey Roberts, special operations supervisor for Snellville police.

Snellville police have counted 35 violations in the last two years, Roberts said.

Of the 29 citations Gwinnett police wrote this year, two drivers were arrested in combination with other charges. One driver, Mexico native Jaime Correa-Blanco, was found to be driving without a license and is being held for immigration authorities, jail records show.

Police noted that unlawful passing of a school bus notches six points against an infractor's driver's license -- the same amount as aggressive driving and speeding by 34 mph or more.

So, what's the rule of the road when drivers see a stopping school bus up ahead?

In general, drivers on the same road must stop and stay stopped until the bus "resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated," according to Georgia code.

One exception includes divided highways where pedestrians aren't permitted to cross the roadway.

The law directs school bus drivers who observe violations to jot pertinent vehicle data on forms furnished by the Department of Public Safety. That information should be submitted to authorities within 15 days, the law states.

Comments

MTG 3 years, 3 months ago

Some of the problems are that some of the rules of the road no longer fit public school system rules. For example at Satellite Blvd and Club Drive, West Bound you have several apartment complexes that have stops on Satellite Blvd.

This is a five lane road at this point and all five lanes must stop when the school bus stops, yet Gwinnett County as well as any other school system in Georgia would not allow a child even under these circumstances to cross 5 lanes of traffic to reach a school bus.

I think if you asked any school official or police officer the code could be amended to include not only a divided highway but a road of 4 lanes or more when divided by a turn lane can pass when the bus is on the opposite side of the turn lane. I don't think this would cause any child safety issues and help keep traffic moving.

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