Johnson City, Tenn. (WJHL) — If the bus lights are flashing, drivers shouldn’t be passing. Local law enforcement is taking measures to keep kids and their families safe as they get on and off the school bus.
“The school bus drivers have been noticing more people passing the stopped school buses when they’ve been loading and offloading students,” said Lt. Becky West of the Johnson City Police Department. “That’s a big problem because it’s very dangerous to the bus driver, the kids on the bus and the kids that are getting on the bus.”
Tennessee state law requires all drivers to come to a complete stop at a safe distance from a stopped school bus while driving in the same direction. The same applies to drivers heading in the opposite direction, unless there is a physical barrier dividing the road, like cement or a grassy median.
West said Johnson City police are keeping a close eye on buses throughout the day.
“We try every day in the mornings and evenings to have officers in the school zones,” said Lt. West. “If they’re not busy, we ask them to follow a school bus and just keep up with that bus on their stops and make sure people are acting right, they’re doing what they’re supposed to.”
In Washington County, Tennessee, Sgt. Jared Taylor of the sheriff’s department said they haven’t written any citations for people passing stopped buses, but they do see people taking risks to pass buses that are in motion.
Taylor said if you don’t want to get stuck behind a bus, plan ahead.
“It’s not like they’re out there all day long doing this,” said Sgt. Taylor. “People should take the opportunity to adjust their schedules. If they need to leave the house 10 or 15 minutes early to avoid some of that school traffic, the bus traffic out there on the roads, then so be it.”
Police said if you see that traffic laws are not being followed around school buses in the region, you should report where it happened.
Fines can range from $250 to $1,000 and will land drivers in General Sessions Court in Johnson City.
Johnson City police said parents should also remind their children to make sure there’s no traffic moving when they get off the bus.
Law enforcement is also reminding everyone to stay aware of school zones and to stay off their phone while driving.