Police Remind Drivers of Harsh Penalties for Breaking School Bus Laws
By Jillian Petrus, Reporter
LINN COUNTY, Iowa - Rolling into the new school year, drivers are reminded to abide by a simple set of rules to keep children safe on their ride to school.
"We are very fortunate the bus is in front of our house," said Mandy Norris, a mom with two kids at Westfield Elementary. "We live on a really busy corner and as the cars turn they often forget the bus is going to be there."
Norris, who lives in a small subdivision just off C Avenue Northeast, said the school bus driver that stops outside her house actually parks at a slight angle. Norris said he does this to encourage other drivers to slow down.
"It makes it so that the oncoming car can't sneak around and a car from behind has to stop. It can't go around," she said.
Harsher penalties for drivers breaking school bus laws are now in effect following the death of a seven-year-old girl. Kaydn Halverson died last May when a driver ignored an extended "stop arm" on a school bus and hit her. That driver is now serving a prison sentence for vehicular homicide. The law extends stiffer penalties to cars that pass buses with flashing lights.
Here is the break down of simple rules you need to know to keep children safe this school year:
-Flashing yellow lights mean a bus is going to stop. A driver behind the bus must slow down, prepare to stop, and not attempt to pass the bus. On-coming cars must drop speeds to 20 miles per hour or less.
-When a stop arm is out every driver, behind the bus or oncoming, must come to a complete stop
Parents say drivers are not solely responsible for their child's safety. Moms and Dads need to be aware too. "They need to be down there at the school bus with their kids," said Steve Hepker, who lives near a high school and middle school bus stop also off of C Avenue. "Make sure the kids aren't rambunctious and running around."
Cedar Rapids police also recently added flashing speed limit signs. When the signs flash yellow lights, it means children are within the school zone and drivers must slow to 25 mph.
Norris says it doesn't need to be complicated for drivers. They just need to remember what is at stake.
"Just be alert and be aware," she said, "be ready to stop and pay attention."
• Two-lane road and the school bus is displaying flashing yellow lights: Flashing yellow lights are an indication that the bus is going to stop. It is illegal to pass a school bus from behind when yellow lights are flashing. When approaching a school bus traveling in the opposite direction, a driver must slow the vehicle to 20 miles per hour or less when yellow lights are seen, and be prepared to stop when the stop arm is extended and red lights flash.
• Two-lane road and the school bus is displaying flashing red lights and an extended stop arm: The bus is letting passengers on or off. It is illegal to pass a school bus from behind or from the opposite travel direction under these conditions. A driver must come to a complete stop at least 15 feet from the bus and remain stopped until the vehicle's flashing red lights deactivate and the stop arm is retracted. At all times, drivers should remain alert for pedestrians.
• Roadway with two or more lanes in each direction: A driver must stop when approaching the school bus from behind when yellow or red lights flash. However, under these roadway conditions, drivers need not stop when meeting a school bus traveling in the opposite direction. School bus drivers are not permitted to let passengers on or off the bus in situations where they must cross multiple lanes of traffic.
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