When the school bus says ‘Stop,’ just stop — and cops should nail the violators | Editorial

When a school bus Stop sign is extended, drivers going in both directions must comply.
When a school bus Stop sign is extended, drivers going in both directions must comply. Getty Images

Those street signs that say, “ Drive like your kids live here?” As the school year gets underway in Florida, that’s exactly what everyone behind the wheel should do, that day, and every one thereafter.

Manatee County drivers were reminded of that this week when a 14-year-old boy walking to his bus in Myakka City was struck and seriously injured by a car whose driver did not stop despite the flashing red lights on a school bus.

Drivers should stop a reckless practice that, sooner or later, could end in a heartbreaking and needless tragedy. There already have been close calls.

They should stop ignoring the flashing red lights and the red-and-white Stop sign that extends out from the sides of yellow school buses pausing to let kids on and off.

They should resist maneuvering, full of righteous indignation, around the bus. They’re putting children’s lives in danger, especially because drivers can’t see kids who are crossing the street in front of the bus.

When a bus stops, drivers going in each direction should stop, too — it’s the law.

“It is unconscionable how drivers ignore these school bus Stop signs. There are laws on the books and rules to be followed and they should do it,” Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald Editorial Board.

“And drivers can’t say they didn’t see the bus, that’s why they’re big yellow buses.”

The schools chief is right. This should be second nature to drivers. But it isn’t, unfortunately.

Miami-Dade and Broward drivers are the worst. They appear to be the biggest offenders in the state, if not the nation, in committing this selfish, dangerous practice.

Violators get hit with a $165 fine and face many as four points against their driver’s licenses.

School bus drivers in Miami-Dade who transport 50,000 students in 1,000 big yellow buses each day have told the district that this is a major concern. They often lean on the horn to alert thoughtless drivers — who would probably stop for a family of ducklings crossing the street — zooming past.

There is hard evidence local drivers need a refresher.

Miami-Dade and Broward — the largest school districts in Florida — had the highest numbers of illegal school-bus passings, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

Miami-Dade had 1,146; Broward was a close second at 1,137. Totally unacceptable. It’s not clear if any of those illegal passes resulted in an accident. Carvalho said there have been close calls, but no serious injuries or fatalities — yet.

To be fair, this is a nationwide problem. According to the American School Bus Council, an estimated 10 million drivers illegally pass school buses every year. The council reports passing cars cause an estimated two-thirds of school bus loading and unloading fatalities across the country.

Florida alone saw 10,937 drivers pass a stopped school bus in just one day, according to that 2018 survey. School bus operators filled out this voluntary poll, and only 50 of Florida’s 67 school districts participated, so the number of violations likely is higher.

The problem is dire enough that we urge local police departments to come down hard on these violators — and those who blow the speed limit in school zones, too.

Young lives are at stake here, and that should count for something.