Every motorist makes a mistake now and then.
When we’re in a hurry, we drive too fast. When we’re lazy, we don’t use the turn signal. When it’s late and nobody is around, we roll a little through a stop sign.
However, there are some rules of the road that even the most middling motorists know not to shirk. And illegally passing a stopped school bus is one of them.
Those big, yellow vehicles deserve a wide berth and our utmost attention because they carry society’s most precious cargo – our children. All it takes is one moment of recklessness to cause the tragedy like the one in December, when a driver struck an 8-year-old Sue Reynolds Elementary School student as he was attempting to board his bus on Belair Road.
The child died of the injuries two weeks later, and the 20-year-old driver was charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 21 children younger than 19 die each year getting on and off buses. Thankfully, that number is not higher than it is, considering each school bus is illegally passed once every day on average.
States already employ stiff fines for illegal bus-passing – a first offense in Georgia is a $300 fine; $500 in South Carolina – and enforcement is going to get even more aggressive.
A South Carolina state law that took effect Aug. 1 now allows police to issue tickets for illegal passing based on video footage recorded by on-board bus cameras. Previously, officers had to actually witness the
offense to issue a citation.
South Carolina school districts such as Aiken County’s already have discussed installing cameras. Though Georgia does not have a similar bus-camera law, officials in Richmond County schools plan to install cameras for testing purposes on bus routes with the most reported illegal-passing problems.
Police say inattention is a common cause of the offense, but they acknowledge that some drivers are just impatient and don’t want to ride behind a slow-moving bus.
Anyone who thinks it’s harmless to drive past a bus when its flashing red signals are activated shows not only a serious disdain for the rules of the road, but also a stunning degree of self-centeredness.
Who else but an extremely self-absorbed person would be willing to jeopardize a child’s life in an effort to reach his or her destination a few scant
minutes – or seconds – earlier?
Let’s face it: If you’re myopic enough to illegally pass a school bus – or even try – you deserve a crushing fine and points on your license.
If you’re incapable of thinking of anyone else, at least picture how you’d look on camera putting young lives in danger.