Before public school starts next week in Montgomery County, local officials are reminding drivers they must stop if they’re on the same road as a stopped school bus picking up or dropping off kids.
The message could be especially important this year because Montgomery County Public Schools will start the high school and middle school day 20 minutes later and the elementary school day 10 minutes later starting with the first day of classes Monday.
Under state law, drivers traveling in both directions must stop and wait if the red lights on a school bus are flashing and its stop sign arm is extended.
The only exception is on a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median or other type of physical barrier dividing traffic. In that case, only traffic following the stopped bus must stop.
County officials and police were so concerned with cases of drivers passing stopped school buses that they started a program in January 2014 in which they installed automated cameras on five buses to catch those drivers.
During discussion of the program in 2013, County Council member Craig Rice said he witnessed an incident in which his daughter was nearly hit by a vehicle passing a stopped school bus as she tried to access the bus.
The program has grown to include cameras on 25 buses.
Montgomery County police said Thursday that the program has netted more than 1,955 violations in its first 18 months.
The citations from the school bus cameras carry a $125 fine, but won’t dock drivers points on their license. If a police officer catches a driver passing a stopped school bus, it can cost the driver $570 and three points.