Every year, when school starts back in session, inattentive drivers pose a danger to kids getting on and off school buses.
Oklahoma Statute Title 47 requires that vehicles come to a stop when a school bus has its red loading signals on and stop sign extended. Those who violate the law face a fine of no less than $100.
However, individuals still fail to pay attention sometimes, said Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Kim Holland.
“It’s just too dangerous to have people speeding by when these kids are getting on and off the bus,” Holland said. “Kids don’t look when they run across the street to go home. We do, we have and we will report drivers who violate that state law.”
Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant said the department often stations officers around areas where children are boarding and exiting school buses.
While law enforcement is able to catch violators occasionally, Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, said enforcing the state law has proved difficult.
“They didn’t take the word of any bus driver, they didn’t take the word of any bystander who may have gotten a tag number,” Townley said. “Before, there was no teeth unless a police officer actually saw the violation.”
Oklahoma House Bill 1926, which goes into effect Nov. 2019, is expected to change that. The bill will allow school districts to install cameras that will help capture violators and provide law enforcement with evidence to pursue charges.
“I think it’s a great bill, I think it’s a good law. I voted for it and I would support it again,” Townley said. “Being in public safety, of course, we had a hearing on it and there was absolutely zero nay-sayers about this going into effect. It just needed to go into effect.”
75 percent of the proceeds from fines will go to the state Cameras for School Bus Stops Revolving Fund, which the State Board of Education will oversee and use to provide grants to public schools for camera installation.
Holland said, for the most part, drivers have adhered to the guidelines of state law and Ardmore City Schools does not have any plans to install cameras at this time.
Violations appear to be more common in rural areas, Townley said. “We have had complaints in our area, but it’s more in some of the rural areas that they have the trouble with that,” she said.
Although Bryant said there have been no reported incidents so far, Townley said there have been cases in the past where children were killed and legislation addressing the issue has been overdue.
“We’ve had children killed here in Oklahoma because people are running around buses and it is just not a safe practice,” Townley said. “There had to be something done.”