Every year in late August, the Ontario County Traffic Safety Board and STOP-DWI program — as well as numerous police agencies in the Finger Lakes area — promote and publicize campaigns to enforce safety around school buses.
More specifically, they remind people it’s against the law to pass a stopped bus with its red lights flashing.
Judging by a couple of recent incidents in Geneva, maybe that reminder needs to be perpetual.
On consecutive days recently, as a bus with flashing lights was picking up a young child on North Main Street near the library, a vehicle coming from the other direction zipped by the bus — and didn’t even slow down.
In both cases, the bus driver blared the horn. Both times, the loud rebuke didn’t even draw a glance from the ignorant, unaware motorist.
According to a 2017 study by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, drivers in the state pass a stopped school bus — with lights flashing — an estimated 40,000 times per day.
The law just doesn’t apply to two-lane streets, avenues and roads. It also applies to multi-lane highways and streets with medians, like North Main Street in Geneva.
A first violation is punishable by a minimum fine of $250 and a maximum fine of $400, and up to 30 days in jail. For a second violation within three years, the minimum fine is $600 and the maximum fine is $750, with up to 180 days in jail. A third or subsequent violation, within three years, is punishable by a minimum fine of $750 and a maximum fine of $1,000, and up to 180 days behind bars.
A ticket for passing a stopped school bus also results in a penalty of five points on a driver’s license.
Ontario County STOP-DWI Administrator Sue Cirencione, who also serves on the county Traffic Safety Board, said the county has a no- reduction policy on these tickets.
This should be common sense by now, folks, but apparently it isn’t. Passing a stopped bus, which likely happens dozens of times per day in our local communities, also flies in the face of the “defensive driving” we were taught years ago.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you are behind a bus or see one coming from the opposite direction, assume it may be stopping at some point and be prepared to stop as well.
If you see its yellow lights flashing, stop where you are and don’t try to “beat” the lights. Other drivers behind you should understand that when it comes to school buses, safety is always No. 1.