Keep an eye out for the red, flashing lights on a school bus; it might cost you your license for a year if you don’t.
A law went into effect in November 2011 allowing for the suspension of driver’s licenses for failure to stop for a school bus that is loading or unloading children. This provision has resulted in 145 driver’s license suspensions through February, according to the state Public Safety Department.
“A lot of people are not aware (of the punishment),” Oklahoma City police Lt. Tommy Joyce said.
According to the law, if a motorist is given a citation, the motorist’s driver’s license is suspended for one year — no exception — as well as a $249 fine.
In Oklahoma City alone, police officers have written 63 citations through the end of February, Joyce said. For Oklahoma City Public Schools, bus drivers report about the same number of motorists driving past school buses when their lights are flashing as they did in years before 2011, said Scott Lane, Oklahoma City Public Schools transportation director.
Oklahoma City Public Schools runs 147 daily routes carrying about 10,000 children a day to and from school.
Catching rule breakers
“The (bus) drivers are still seeing people do it and they write down the information as they see them. What they basically try to do is, if they see someone do that, get a tag number, and the fact is, though, that their main thing is watching the kids,” Lane said.
When a car drives past a school bus, bus drivers file a form detailing where the incident happened and describing the vehicle. That information is given to the police.
Sometimes officers will direct a patrol to a certain area after receiving complaints from schools, but often, officers cite motorists when officers see the violation while on patrol.
Joyce said the response most people give when being pulled over varies between not having enough time to stop, not knowing why they were pulled over or admitting to driving past the school bus.
“If they have been open and honest, the officer may decide to issue a verbal warning ... It may make it an education experience for the person as opposed to giving them a citation, but that is up to the officer’s discretion,” Joyce said.
Lane said he thinks violations happen at least once a day and more frequently during the afternoons.
When children get off the bus, they are told to walk about 12 feet in front of the bus and look to the driver, who will motion for them to cross the street when the street is clear, Lane said.
“We just encourage people to wait a few seconds for a bus to clear,” Lane said. “It’s worth keeping the kids safe.”
At a glance
About Aaron’s Law
Aaron’s Law tightened various traffic laws. It was named for Aaron Zentz, a 17-year-old from Yukon who was killed when a motorist ran a red light. It went into effect November 2011.
Through February, a total of 145 driver’s licenses have been suspended for failure to stop for a school bus loading and unloading children, 46 were suspended for failure to obey traffic light/stop signs causing great bodily injury and 225 were suspended for reckless driving with no regard to the safety of others.