New Milford police chief: Motorists need to stop for school buses
NEW MILFORD — A hefty fine hasn’t stopped hundreds of motorists from zipping past school buses as students are picked up and dropped off in town.
New Milford police have issued 442 summonses since the spring to motorists who have ignored the flashing lights on school buses. The majority of the tickets — 413 — have been issued on Danbury Road, Police Chief Shawn Boyne said.
Drivers face a $465 fine for illegally passing a school bus and a $760 penalty if the bus is stopped in a construction zone.
While there have been no accidents, Boyne plans to meet with the state Department of Transportation about a possible grant for special patrols to address the issue.
Some All-Star Transportation buses have been outfitted since 2012 with exterior cameras that record and transmit images of passing vehicles. The video recordings and photos are sent to the local police department, which determines if a citation should be issued.
Violators in New Milford have been caught by these cameras or by police officers who witnessed the incidents.
“I think most of it is that people think they can run the amber and red lights,” said Jeff Woods, All-Star terminal manager in New Milford. “We see it a lot on back roads also. Drivers don’t see a police car around and ignore the stop signal. Some people don’t realize drivers have to stop in all four lanes of a four-lane road like Danbury Road, but most of it in my opinion is people ignoring the rules.”
Woods said All-Star bus drivers are trained to only drop off and pick up students on the right side of major roads. On small back roads, students can be dropped off across the street from their houses, but children are told to wait to exit the bus until they get “a head nod from the driver,” indicating it is safe to cross, Woods said.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data from 2004 to 2013, there were 327 school-age children who died in school-transportation-related crashes — 116 were pedestrians. There were more school-age pedestrians killed between 7 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day, the NHTSA study found.
Under state law, drivers must stop for school buses that have their flashing red warning lights activated, whether they are approaching or following the school bus, State Trooper First Class Kelly Grant said.
“The yellow flashing lights are a warning to drivers that the bus will be stopping to pick up and/or drop-off students,” Grant said. “Drivers should anticipate that the red flashing lights will come on shortly after seeing the yellow flashing lights as the bus comes to a stop. The red flashing lights on a school bus indicate that the bus is stopped and students are either getting on or off the bus.”
Under the law, bus drivers can report motorists who pass stopped school buses. Police officers will then interview the motorist and decide whether to issue a ticket or a warning.
Bus drivers are required to activate the bus' flashing yellow lights to alert motorists 100 feet before it stops.
“Parents should remind their children to wait in a safe place, out of the travel portion of the roadway, and only cross the street after looking both ways, even if the red lights are activated,” Grant said.