School bus stop arm FILE

A school bus stop arm is activated inside the Laramie County School District 1 bus barn in east Cheyenne. Courtesy

CHEYENNE – It is against the law to drive past a school bus with its stop arm activated and lights flashing.

Fortunately for Laramie County School District 1 and other state schools, in February of this year, the Wyoming Legislature passed tougher laws.

Effective July 1, Wyoming Statute 31-5-507’s updated directives went into effect. The wording stresses that school bus video recordings of vehicles committing stop arm violations is admissible in judicial proceedings. If the vehicle driver’s identify is unknown, the registered owner of the vehicle will be fined $195.

Adam Greenwood, LCSD1’s transportation administrator, said he wants the community to know how much he values student safety. He is working to ensure students arrive safely to school and return home safely, and he hopes the statute changes will help him do that.

Incidences of vehicles passing stopped buses greatly concern Greenwood. He said that each day, in the morning before school and in the afternoon when school ends, bus drivers often document anywhere from five to 10 violations.

“These incidents even occur in the bus loading zones at schools, which is still an offense that will earn drivers a ticket,” Greenwood said. “It’s staggering. We’ll have violations where cars are not only passing on the left side of the bus, they’re passing around the right side.

“Cellphones compound the problem because people look down to read something, and when they focus on the road again, students may be in front of them.”

In order to track violation statistics, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) conducts a yearly survey on illegal passing of school buses in all 50 states. Of the 1,061 Wyoming bus drivers who documented and reported violations on Feb. 6, 2019, there were 54 morning violations, five midday violations and 56 afternoon violations.

Justin Budd, LCSD1 assistant transportation administrator, said passing a school bus used to be a stop arm violation.

“Now it is a civil violation,” Budd said. “The message we need to get out to the driving community is that if you’re not sure when to stop for a school bus, just stop. I doubt if you’ll get a ticket for stopping when you don’t need to. Err on the side of caution.”

He explained that in his previous job, in a different state, he was called upon to investigate an incident where a car passed a school bus and hit a student. Unfortunately, the student died.

“I don’t want to see that happen here or anywhere,” Budd said.

Greenwood said LCSD1’s transportation department has been working with the district’s school resource officers (SROs). Local law enforcement has always been helpful, but now there is a new procedure in place that started at the beginning of this school year. He hopes that going forward, the police efforts will be even more effective at reducing stop arm violations.

“Right now, we have a stack of hard drives with video taken from the buses,” Greenwood said.

Depending on where the bus was located at the time the violation occurred, Greenwood said the information is sent to either the Cheyenne Police Department, the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department or the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Based on the video evidence, law enforcement will ticket the vehicle owners.

“A portion of the fines will filter back to the district,” Greenwood said. “We haven’t seen anything yet because this is a brand new program. And this is not going to be a source of district revenue. I would love to make zero dollars from this!”

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