Our children are precious but that does not mean drivers are exercising the level of care they should be around school buses.
Recently The State reported on how Columbia police are seeking an electric blue Honda Accord that they say was involved in a hit and run with a school bus before 5 pm on Jan 22, police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said.
The school bus was traveling east on Devine Street. It was stopped in traffic at Milwood Avenue when the car, which was traveling in the same direction, sideswiped the bus and then fled the scene.
Police said one child on the bus was treated for minor injuries. Columbia police did not disclose how many children were on the bus or their ages. They said the car they are looking for may have sustained minor damage to its right fender.
In this case it does not appear that the bus was unloading or picking up children, a scenario that confers a responsibility on other drivers to stop.
Like every other state, South Carolina has strict laws about passing school buses. A new law was passed in July, 2013, which was intended to clear up misunderstandings about what drivers should do when they approached a stopped school bus.
"The old law was somewhat confusing as to when drivers had to stop on a four-lane highway," said Highway Patrol Col. Russell Roark in a South Carolina State Department of Education press release. "The new law not only makes it safer for students to get on and off the bus, but it simplifies the law for motorists as well."
In 2012, 12 students statewide were injured getting on and off school buses in South Carolina, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.
The 2013 law stipulates that drivers must always stop when they are traveling behind a bus with flashing amber or red lights, regardless of whether the road has two, four or more lanes. Drivers must also stop when approaching a stopped school bus from the opposite direction on a two-lane road. However, on a four-lane (or more) highway or private road, they do not have to stop. Those drivers should slow down and proceed with caution.
The new law sought to clear up previous legislation that was causing confusion. In past years, drivers who were headed in the opposite direction to a stopped school bus could legally pass if the two vehicles were separated by a grass or concrete raised median. But, drivers on roads with four or more lanes that were separated only by painted lines had to stop under the old law.
In the press release, Donald Tudor, director of the State Department of Education's Office of Transportation, pointed out confusion over the old law was creating dangers. He said some drivers on four-lane roads stopped when approaching a stopped school bus headed in the opposite direction, but other drivers just kept going.
The law also requires school districts to make sure that students who are getting on or off bus don't have to cross a road with four or more lanes.
The Department of Public Safety is implementing a special school bus safety enforcement program intended to protect students as they get on, or off, their buses. It "combines intensified enforcement with a public information campaign designed to educate motorists about the law and the penalties associated with passing a stopped school bus."
Drivers who violate the school bus laws can face fine of up to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail for a first offense.
South Carolina Highway Patrol uses a wide range of techniques to catch violators, including putting troopers on some buses to observe violations, troopers shadowing buses as they pick up and drop off kids and use of special enforcement vehicles such as motorcycles and unmarked patrol cars. Every year about 200 citations are issued in South Carolina for passing school buses.
If your child is injured on a school bus, at a bus stop or anywhere else by a driver who is in violation of the law, there are clear grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced Columbia auto accident injury lawyer can represent you. Call Masella law at 803.938.4952.