It’s a new school year and parents, students and staff might have other things on their mind than the new school bus law (SB 718) that passed over the summer and a new pilot program called the Stop Arm Violation Education-Enforcement (S.A.V.E). Both SB 718 and S.A.V.E. aim to stop speedy motorists that ignore the law about slowing down and stopping while a school bus’s arm or stop sign is raised. In the last four decades in South Carolina, 14 students have been killed and 26 students have been injured by motorists illegally passing a school bus. Since 2013, law enforcement officials have issued 159 citations throughout the state for stop-arm violations, but it seems fair to assume that there were more violations than have been cited. The Department of Public Safety has received 540 written complaints from the state’s Department of Education that caused troopers to be sent to those school areas to catch violators. A state Department of Education survey of 25 school districts found that in a single day in June, there was 388 illegal passes around a stopped school bus.
State Senator Thomas Alexander introduced the SB 718 bill last year, but it stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee. Ultimately, Sen. Alexander re-energized his colleagues to pass the bill by using a troubling photo of a 15-year-old Gaffney High School student struck down on May 13 while she was stepping out of a school bus. The motorist, Leslie Littlejohn, did not stop as she approached the stopped school bus that had on flashing lights and the stop sign extended. Littlejohn was charged with unlawful passing of a school bus that caused great bodily injury and the violation of a learner’s permit.
S.A.V.E. Students with School Bus Surveillance
An important goal of the S.A.V.E. campaign is to amend state law and allow the installation of surveillance cameras on school buses for the purpose of catching and prosecuting speedy motorists violating the school bus law. David Poag, co-founder of S.A.V.E., believes cameras will deter motorists from violating the school bus law. Before SB 718, law enforcement officials had to actually observe the motorist violating the school bus law before they could take action.
Despite the passage of SB 718, the penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus have not changed. The penalties range from a minimum fine of $500 plus six license points for a first-time violation, which can increase to a $2,000 minimum fee for additional convictions. The penalties are higher when injuries result from the illegal pass.
It’s important to note that it’s illegal in all fifty states to pass a school bus that has stopped to load or unload students. Motorists should slow when a school bus is flashing yellow lights and stop when there are red flashing lights and the stop sign is extended. For those interested in learning more about the new school bus safety law and S.A.V.E., consult with a knowledgeable car accident attorney.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.