The Troup County School System is teaming up with the Georgia State Patrol to help ensure the safety of children who are transported each day on their buses.
Drivers who endanger the lives of children by not following state traffic laws concerning school bus stop arm regulations, will be prosecuted. Passing a school bus illegally is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000.
Georgia State Patrol Officer Raines met with Troup County School Transportation Director Jeff Turner, Troup County School Public Relations Director Tina Duckett and members of the media in the school district’s bus lot on Friday to alert the public of a deadly problem.
“Students’ lives are endangered every time a driver ignores the stop signals of a school bus and tries to drive pass that bus. The Georgia State Patrol is helping us take aggressive action against such drivers,” Turner said.
Since August, Turner has had the bus drivers compile information concerning vehicles whose drivers violate school bus laws. Information on 19 such violators have been given to the State Patrol, of which five have already successfully been charged.
“We want the general public to know that we are an assistant agency. The school system has asked us to help them with a problem they are having,” Raines said. “First Lady (Sandra) Deal basically started this initiative the first of the year and Troup County has stepped up to the plate to say, ‘we are going to let the law know what is happening.’”
Presently, the school bus drivers are the ones who are giving tag information and descriptions of the drivers and their cars, who unlawfully pass them, to the school district. The school district then conveys this information to the Georgia State Parole. To help with this process, Turner is looking into mounting outside cameras to buses that are experiencing incidents of these violations. The cameras will then be able to record the violator’s vehicle and driver information, process it, and then directly transmit it to the GSP.
“There is no excuse for passing a stopped school bus. Drivers need to use caution and obey the laws and if they don’t, they will be prosecuted,” Raine said.
When a school bus is stopped and has its stop signals engaged while picking up or dropping off students, other vehicles, from both directions, must stop and not pass that bus. The only exception is if the bus is on a divided highway that has a center median, the traffic in the opposite direction is not required to stop, but should still demonstrate extreme caution.
“Kids are kids and you never can tell what they might do. When in doubt, just stop,” Rainer said.
School bus safety is a priority for the Troup County School System. Each day the district uses 117 buses to cover 936 routes to service approximately 8,000 students. Every bus is given a monthly safety check by one of the district’s six on site mechanics. Bus drivers are required to give their buses a general safety inspection before they start their routes each day. School bus safety programs are given to both the district’s drivers and students.
The school district recognizes the value of competent and caring bus drivers.
“Our goal is to get the children safely to school on time and in a frame of mind ready to learn. We then want to get them home safely and eager to return to school the following day,” Turner said. “School bus drivers take their jobs seriously. They are the first face of the school district that the students see in the morning, and usually are the last one they see at the end of the day.”
Turner gave credit to Rainer, “We do appreciate the support the State Patrol has given us, especially Officer Raines and his officers, in helping us to try to solve and to eliminate this problem.”
Rainer ended by saying, “The easiest way to eliminate this problem is for the driver just to do the right thing, stay behind the bus until it is possible to lawfully get around it.”
Applications to become a school bus driver may be obtained from the school district’s transportation office, Building B, at 100 North Davis Rd. in LaGrange.