Law enforcement cracking down on school bus passers


Published: Monday, October 21, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 21, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.

In case you forgot it’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus, law enforcement officers will be handing out reminders this week in the form of $259 to $359 tickets.

Law enforcement officers across the country will be strictly enforcing traffic laws regarding school buses this week, deemed National School Bus Safety Week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Operation Bluebird,” which runs Monday to Thursday, happens every year during the third week of October. The operation takes its name from the Blue Bird company that makes most school buses.

“It’s mainly an educational thing,” Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Eddie May said, adding that many drivers aren’t clear on traffic laws. “It’s not one of those things where we’re out to write as many citations as we can.”

Unless there’s a median or physical barrier between a vehicle and a school bus, the vehicle must stop when a school bus stops, extends its stop signs and turns on its flashing lights.

Passing a stopped school bus on the left carries a fine of $259.

Passing on the right, where students get on and off the bus, is a criminal infraction with a $359 fine and a mandatory court appearance.

In 2002, May said, a study recorded about 200 incidents of drivers passing stopped buses per day in Alachua County.

“We’ve addressed it,” he said. “Our complaints we get on people passing school buses is nothing like it used to be.”

During this week last year, he said, the Sheriff’s Office, the Gainesville Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol wrote a total of about 26 citations.

By 5 p.m. Monday, May said the agencies had issued only two warnings.

But it’s a necessary safety exercise.

Nearly half of Alachua County’s approximately 27,000 school children ride one of the county’s 156 buses, covering 470 routes, according to information provided by the Sheriff’s Office

Fortunately, May said, no students have been injured in the past five years as a result of drivers passing a stopped school bus.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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