For millions of children across the country, the routine of riding a school bus gets underway for another year. Getting on and off the bus is one of the most dangerous times of their day because of the threat of stop-arm violators — motorists who ignore the law and pass a school bus that’s loading or unloading children.
Based on a study by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), stop-arm violations occur at an alarming rate.
In a 2008 study for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), TTI analyzed a survey of school bus drivers from about 750 school districts. During a one-day period, drivers reported 12,850 stop-arm violations. As a result of the one-day totals, researchers estimate that nearly 3 million violations occur during a typical school year in the state.
‘It’s clear that our school children are at risk every day,” says Associate Research Scientist Patricia Turner, who conducted the study. “Stop-arm violations are more common than anyone realizes, except the bus drivers who see it every day.”
In Texas, approximately 35,000 public school buses transport an estimated 1.4 million children each day. A stop-arm violator can be fined up to $1000 for the first offense. A second conviction under the statute is a state jail felony.
For police officers who witness the violations, it seems as if motorists simply aren’t paying attention. “I think it boils down to distracted driving,” says Officer Philip Brown of the College Station Police Department. “It’s hard to believe, but most of the violators claim they just didn’t see the stopped bus.”