DON’T IGNORE THE FLASHING LIGHTS OF STOPPED SCHOOL BUSES

DON’T IGNORE THE FLASHING LIGHTS OF STOPPED SCHOOL BUSES

DON’T IGNORE THE FLASHING LIGHTS OF STOPPED SCHOOL BUSES

Happy Friday! We here at Bordas & Bordas would like to congratulate those of you who are completing your first week of the new school year. That includes students, teachers, faculty and staff. We hope that the new school year has gotten off to a wonderful start! As we look forward to the year ahead, it is important that we all keep in mind a few safety rules.  Particularly as it concerns children around school buses.   A new bill signed into law earlier this year by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will give law enforcement officers “more capability to pursue drivers who ignore the flashing lights of stopped school buses.” The new law, which was aptly named the “School Bus Stop Sign” bill, provides that “the driver of a vehicle, upon meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus which has stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children, shall stop the vehicle before reaching the school bus when there is in operation on the school bus flashing warning signal lights.”  “[T]he driver may not proceed until the school bus resumes motion, or is signaled by the school bus driver to proceed or the visual signals are no longer actuated.”  W. Va. Code § 17C-12-7(a). The new law then states that, if a vehicle fails to heed a school bus stop sign and the license plate number of the offending vehicle is known, law enforcement officers can infer that the owner or lessee of the car was the person driving the vehicle.  The owner or lessee of the car will then be charged for the crime.  If there is more than one registered owner or lessee for a vehicle, the first-listed owner or lessee will be the responsible party.  Prior to the passage of this new bill, law enforcement officers “had to have eye-witness testimony of the person operating the vehicle in violation before a citation could be issued.” Thus, if you could find the vehicle but you couldn’t identify the driver, a citation could not be issued. Penalties for drivers who fail to heed a school bus stop sign will remain the same under the new law: First Offense ·      A fine of not less than $150 or more than $500 and/or confinement in jail for not more than 6 months; and ·      Suspension of driver’s license for a period of 30 days Second Offense ·      A fine of $500 and/or confinement in jail for not more than 6 months; and ·      Suspension of driver’s license for a period of 90 days Third Offense ·      A fine of $500 and confined in jail for not less than 24 hours but not more than 6 months; and ·      Suspension of driver’s license for a period of 180 days In addition, a driver who fails to stop for a school bus stop sign and causes “serious bodily injury” to any person other than themselves will be guilty of a felony.  Upon conviction, the driver will be fined not less $500 but not more than $2,000 and will be confined in a state correctional facility for not less than 1 year but not more than 3 years. A driver who fails to stop for a school bus stop sign and causes death will be guilty of a felony.  Upon conviction, the driver will be fined not less than $1,000 but not more than $3,000 and will be confined in a state correctional facility for not less than 1 year but not more than 10 years. Lawmakers were careful to write the bill to insure that charges would fall to somebody else if it could be proven that the car in violation was actually being operated by another person.  Thus, the new law merely enables law enforcement to create a presumption that the owner or lessee of the vehicle was driving. For those of us who may need a refresher on when we are required to stop for a school bus stop sign, the State of West Virginia Driver’s Licensing Handbook states, “[o]n all highways, streets, parking lots, private roads or driveways, traffic in both directions must stop before reaching a school bus that has its red lights flashing.”  “Only on interstate highways does traffic coming toward a school bus stopped on the other side of the median not have to stop.”  A good rule of thumb then is, if there isn’t a median, you should always stop, regardless of the direction you are traveling in. Stay safe out there, folks! And be sure watch for the flashing lights of stopped school buses! Happy Friday!