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When to stop for school buses and the penalties you could face if you don't

chesapeake school bus stop sign and camera.jpg
Posted at 8:10 AM, Sep 03, 2021

With school buses hitting the road again, drivers have to be ready to stop. It could be life or death for children crossing the street.

After a few months without seeing many buses on the road, it's easy to forget the rules, but unless there's a barrier separating two sides of the street, both directions of traffic must stop for a school bus.

That's the rule for two-lane roads, multi-lane roads and multi-lane roads with a shared turn lane in the middle, even if multiple lanes separate your vehicle from the bus.

"Anytime there is a positive barrier median, you do not need to stop so what I mean by positive barrier median is a jersey wall, a curb," said Chesapeake Police Sgt. Kenneth Byrd. "If you're familiar with Military Highway, they have the area where there's a road, grass with trees and a road. You do not have to stop there. There is some positive barrier there."

Sgt. Byrd works with Chesapeake Public Schools' stop-arm camera program, which saw cameras put on buses last year. Virginia Beach, Newport News and James City County are some of the area's other communities that also have cameras.

Byrd says Chesapeake's cameras caught a number of violations early in the year, which then tapered off as drivers got used to sharing the road once again.

He'll be watching to see if the same happens again, but keeping an eye on James City County could be a clue. School there already started and police reported 71 stop violations in just three days.

Drivers in Chesapeake will notice signs warning of upcoming school bus stops; a result of last year's violations, Byrd says.

"We put signs up on the roadways in Chesapeake where we have a lot of violations," he tells News 3.

Whether the issues continue is up to drivers. Cameras pick up the license plates of violators who police say could then face a $250 civil penalty.

But it's not about the money. It's about the safety of children, who are just trying to learn. That's why schools want parents to talk with their kids too.

"Have a conversation with your child about just safe practices while waiting at the bus stop. That's the time to be vigilant. Be aware that you are standing close to an active road," said Dr. David Benson, Director of Transportation for Chesapeake Public Schools, which start school next week.

Benson is also asking drivers and parents to be patient the first few weeks of school as bus drivers and the students they're carrying take their time to figure out bus stops.

Because all it takes is a split second for tragedy to strike.