In April 2019, a study was conducted to determine how many school buses were illegally passed in a single day. The answer– Alabama school buses were passed 1,605 times.
According to Dr. Jason Barnett, DeKalb County School superintendent, that is 1,605 times too many.
“As superintendent, and as a school system, it is our first priority to keep our students safe,” Barnett said. “That priority begins from the time students step on a bus, or on to one of our campuses, and the priority extends until students are home safe in the afternoon. And to be honest, we worry about them when school isn’t in session, too. With that in mind, we want to cover as many bases as possible to keep our students safe.”
Keith Atchley, DeKalb County Schools transportation supervisor, said county officials have worked together to start this initiative program centered around bus safety.
“In the recent past our state and nation have been tragically impacted by motorists who have illegally passed a school bus,” Atchley said. “In DeKalb County we transport almost 5,000 students a day on rural roads, state highways, and interstates. The need for our school system, law enforcement agencies and courts to be vigilant to protect students is paramount. That’s why I am very proud of Superintendent Dr. Jason Barnett, Sheriff Nick Welden, Judge Whitmire, and District Attorney Mike O’Dell. These officials collaborated to address the issue of illegally passing a stopped school bus in order to ensure the safety of our students. With high-definition cameras on our new school buses, digital video recorders are able to capture illegal passing incidents. The Sheriff’s office and Judge Whitmire have proven that they will follow through and bring these violators to court. In order to avoid the first-time offender’s fine of $300, please stop when a school bus has its red lights flashing.”
Barnett said the goal is to not just penalize people but to bring safety and awareness to the dangers inflicted on students and drivers when someone passes a school bus.
“My hope and goal for this program is that we can eliminate the illegal passing of a stopped bus to ensure students are able to safely load and unload at each and every stop,” Barnett said. “This initiative was born out of a desire to keep our students and drivers safe and not strictly to penalize and fine people. While violators may receive fines and repeat offenders could receive felony charges, we are working on an educational/informational program whereby offenders can receive training on the dangers of these type violations.”
For more information on how you can help keep your child safe when riding or loading/unloading a school bus, check out www.schoolbusfacts.com/safety/ .