JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Nearly 42 million school bus law violations a year endanger children in the U.S., according to an annual survey from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

Locally, Johnson City authorities say they have seen an uptick in drivers ignoring the stop sign arm and flashing red lights — a violation that risks the lives of children.

“Our bus drivers are seeing a marked increase in illegal passings,” said Johnson City Police Lt. Becky West in a news release Tuesday. “We take these violations very seriously, as they jeopardize the safety of our children as well as the motoring public and pedestrians.”

Tennessee law requires drivers to bring their vehicles to a complete stop when traveling in the same direction as a stopped school bus. This law also applies to those traveling from the opposite direction if there is not a physical barrier dividing the road or pavement. Drivers are also required to stop if there is a two-way continuous turn lane.

Violations of these laws can be costly. Worst-case scenarios could cost the students their well-being or even lives.

“In addition to the potential injury or death of a student, motorists who fail to stop when approaching a stopped school bus are committing a crime,” West said. “It is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $250 and $1,000.”

School bus safety awareness can also start at home. Police encourage parents and guardians to review best practices with their students. An adult should accompany younger children to and from the bus stop and remain with them until the bus arrives. Students should board and deboard the bus without headphones and handheld devices to avoid distractions.

The JCPD encourages anyone who sees school bus violations to report the incident and location to police.