(WTVM) - Whether it's ignorance of the law or deliberate disobedience, thousands of drivers across Georgia are illegally passing school buses every day.
That's why the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) and the state's Department of Education have partnered together to launch the "Stop Means Stop" campaign, an initiative to help educate Georgia motorists about the laws regarding passing school buses. Helping to kick off the campaign is none other than Georgia's First Lady, Sandra Deal.
Now that school has started for most counties in Georgia, this campaign is more important than ever. We know that students in Georgia are safest when on their school bus. However, it's when they are entering and exiting the school bus that they are most vulnerable.
Georgia law states that vehicles traveling in both directions must stop when a school bus activates its stop-arm when vehicles are on a two-lane road or a multi-lane road with no median or barrier. Vehicles travelling in the same direction as a school bus must always stop, but motorists travelling in the opposite direction can only proceed (with caution) when there is an unpaved median or barrier separating the opposing lanes.
While the number of motorists in the state who violate stop-arm laws declined this year over last year, the rate remains alarmingly high. Data collected voluntarily by districts statewide during a one-day survey in May show that 7,349 vehicles illegally passed school buses in a total of 4,222 incidences. That's compared to 8,102 vehicles during 4,629 incidences last year. The numbers are likely higher than that because not all of the state's 178 school districts with bus programs turned in data.
"While I'm pleased we are seeing fewer incidences of stop-arm violations, it's frightening to think we have this many drivers breaking the law and endangering our children," said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. "I would ask the public to please pay close attention to school buses and watch for their stop signals. Student safety should be a priority for everyone in the community, not just parents and schools."
To help combat this problem, Mrs. Deal will be touring the state with GOHS and the Department of Education on Aug. 20 and 21 to spread the word about school bus safety. She will be visiting schools in Harris, Dougherty, Bibb, Bulloch and Columbia counties.
"We are so happy to be partnering with Mrs. Deal and the department of education on this issue," said GOHS Director Harris Blackwood. "This issue is a no brainer. Protect our kids. Stop means stop. It's that simple."
Since 1995, 11 Georgia school bus stop fatalities have occurred when students were struck by motorists.