Districts working to target drivers who pass school buses

Some districts working to change state law
Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 25, 2017

Several school districts across Florida are working to change state law, allowing police to more easily ticket drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

Bus drivers say they not only have to make sure all the students on the bus are safe, but also have to get them to where they are going on time.

But they say their students' safety is out of their control when reckless drivers pass a stopped school bus illegally, potentially hitting children trying to cross the street.

"There's nothing you can do but blow your horn, and hope that they notice you," said Paula Davis. Davis is a school bus driver for Pinellas County, and has been driving buses for over a decade.

She has seen two students hit by illegally passing cars. She says one kid was able to get back up after being knocked off his bike. Unfortunately, the other student was not. 

Davis hopes people start to view school buses as a moving classroom full of young students, and not as just another vehicle on the road they can speed by.

According to a tally taken by Pinellas County bus drivers, they were illegally passed around 500 times in one day. 

There is a small white box attached to the left side of some Pinellas County buses. This white box is actually a camera. 

"Currently, our newer buses all have stop-arm cameras on them, such that we can get the tag number of the car that passes the bus when the stop arm is out," said Michael Burke, the Pinellas County transportation safety auditor.

However, the information gathered from these cameras cannot be used to issue tickets, per state law.

"The officer must witness the actual incident and be there and write the ticket at that time," said Burke.

That may change soon. The districts across Florida have been recording the number of cars that pass stopped school buses and plan to take that information to state education leaders, who in turn will present the data to state lawmakers, according to Pinellas County Schools. They hope to work together to get that law to change.

Florida legislators have already been working on trying to curb reckless driving around school buses. The minimum fine for passing a stopped school bus starts at $165. It could even result in a suspended license. 

In the meantime, Pinellas County is aiming to fill more than 40 school bus driver jobs. Learn more about getting hired here.