Special to the News
There has been a rise in drivers violating the state rules when approaching school buses while loading and unloading students, and area representatives are continuing to work to improve public awareness of the law and help keep local school students safe.
Sheriff Michael Howell, Assistant District Attorney Joe Ficquette, School Superintendent David Stover, School Resource Officer Brad Moon, School System Transportation Supervisor John Nelson, and Rockford Police Chief Jamie Hammond have met numerous times to ensure the safety of Coosa County’s school students as they travel to and from school.
An issue that they have faced over the years has been people running school bus stop signs. This has been an ongoing issue, and the above listed names are taking a stance to make sure students are safe.
Listed below is the law regarding this matter. The Coosa County Sheriff’s Office will enforce the law prohibiting people from running a school bus stop sign.
Please be aware of the law. One clarification that needs to be made is regarding all traffic must stop for school bus stop signs on a 4-lane highway.
If there is a median between the lanes, such as U.S. Highway 280, then all lanes are not required to stop. The only lanes that would be required to stop are those lanes directly behind the school bus on a 4-lane highway with a median.
Sheriff Michael Howell stated he believes the general public needs to become familiar with this law and how to correctly stop for a school bus.
He said, “It is our duty to protect and serve our children. They are vulnerable as they enter and exit the school bus. We want to make every effort we can to make sure they remain safe as they travel back and forth to school.”
Working in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office there will be citations issued when these infractions occur. The school system buses are equipped with exterior cameras, and the footage recorded will be used as evidence of the infraction.
The information will be forwarded to the Sheriff’s Office, and actions will be taken. The owner of the vehicle cited will be sent a citation and will be responsible to appear in court for the infraction.
If the vehicle owner was not driving the vehicle at the time of the violation, the owner must present in court who was operating their vehicle.
Per the Alabama Code, the fine for passing a stopped school bus can range from a $150 minimum fine to a maximum of $3,000, license being suspended/revoked, community service, and the possibility of jail time if convicted of more than one offense.
The full law is provided below.
Alabama Code 32-5A-154
(a) The driver of a vehicle upon meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus which has stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children on a highway, on a roadway, on school property, or upon a private road or any church bus which has stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop before reaching the school or church bus when there is in operation on the school or church bus a visual signal as specified in Section 32-5A-155. The driver shall not proceed until the school or church bus resumes motion or is signaled by the school or church bus driver to proceed or the visual signals are no longer actuated.
(b) Every bus used for the transportation of school children shall bear upon the front and rear thereof plainly visible signs containing the words “school bus” in letters not less than eight inches in height, and in addition shall be equipped with visual signals meeting the requirements of Section 32-5A-155, which shall be actuated by the driver of the school bus only when the vehicle is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging school children. The visual signals shall not be actuated at any other time.
(c)(1) Every bus used for the transportation of passengers to or from church shall bear upon the front and rear thereof plainly visible signs containing the words “church bus” in letters not less than eight inches in height. Visual signals meeting the requirements of Section 32-5A-155, on a church bus, if any, may be actuated by the driver of the church bus only when the vehicle is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers.
(2) A bus operated by the Association for Retarded Citizens of Alabama, or an affiliate thereof, transporting its clients shall be considered a bus to which this section is applicable.
(d) The driver of a vehicle upon a divided highway having four or more lanes which permits at least two lanes of traffic to travel in opposite directions need not stop the vehicle upon meeting a school or church bus which is stopped in the opposing roadway or if the school or church bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.
(e) If the driver of any vehicle is witnessed by a peace officer or the driver of a school bus to have violated this section and the identity of the driver of the vehicle is not otherwise apparent, it shall be an inference that the person in whose name such vehicle is registered committed the violation. In the event that charges are filed against multiple owners of a motor vehicle, only one of the owners may be convicted and court costs may be assessed against only one of the owners. If the vehicle which is involved in the violation is registered in the name of a rental or leasing company and the vehicle is rented or leased to another person at the time of the violation, the rental or leasing company may rebut the inference by providing the peace officer or prosecuting authority with a copy of the rental or lease agreement in effect at the time of the violation.
(f)(1) Upon first conviction, a person violating subsection (a) shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred fifty dollars ($150) nor more than three hundred dollars ($300).
(2) On a second conviction, a person convicted of violating subsection (a) shall be punished by a fine of not less than three hundred dollars ($300) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500) and shall complete at least 100 hours of community service. In addition, the Director of the Department of Public Safety shall suspend the driving privileges or driver’s license of the person convicted for a period of 30 days.
(3) On a third conviction, a person convicted of violating subsection (a) shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) and shall complete at least 200 hours of community service. In addition, the Director of the Department of Public Safety shall suspend the driving privileges or driver’s license of the person convicted for a period of 90 days.
(4) On a fourth or subsequent conviction, a person convicted of violating subsection (a) shall be guilty of a Class C felony and punished by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than three thousand dollars ($3,000). In addition to the other penalties authorized, the Director of the Department of Public Safety shall revoke the driving privileges or driver’s license of the person convicted for a period of one year.
(g) Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the Alabama habitual felony offender law shall not apply to a conviction of a felony pursuant to subsection (f), and a conviction of a felony pursuant to subsection (f) shall not be a felony conviction for purposes of the enhancement of punishment pursuant to Alabama’s habitual felony offender law.
(h) All fines and penalties imposed pursuant to this section shall be forwarded immediately upon collection by the officer of the court who collects the proceeds to the general fund of the respective agency that enforced this section.
(i) Neither reckless driving nor any other traffic infraction is a lesser included offense under a charge of overtaking and passing a school bus or church bus.