December 9, 2021 News

Drivers are required by law to obey school bus stop arms

SC Journal Bus Safety
A school bus stop arm is activated, but the SCCSD transportation supervisor says more and more drivers are not stopping while buses are loading and unloading students. Photo courtesy of the Sioux City Journal's Tim Hynds.

An alarming number of motorists are driving around school buses while they’re stopped to drop off or pick up children.

State law requires drivers to remain stopped while school bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is out. Sioux City transportation supervisor Chris Wellenstein said he is receiving reports of two to three violations per week this school year, compared to one every other week or one every three weeks in previous years.

There have been around 30 to 40 violations this year, Wellenstein said. He said he’s not sure what’s contributing to the troubling increase.

“The last thing we need is anybody getting harmed,” Wellenstein said. “It’s becoming increasingly an issue.”

Among the streets where Wellenstein has seen the most violations on include Jackson, Court and Chambers Street, and Cheyenne Boulevard.

The law is intended to ensure students get on and off buses safely, he said. Wellenstein reminds drivers to follows the speed limits and keep an eye out for stopped buses.

A majority of the district buses are equipped with cameras on the stop arms. Wellenstein said his department look at the footage to get the make and model of the car, license plate number and state and time of day that a motorist unlawfully passes a bus, if the bus driver is unable to write down that information.

The district then forwards the information to the police.

After Kadyn Halverson, a 7-year-old Northwood girl was hit and killed while boarding a school bus in May 2011, state lawmakers stepped up penalties for drivers convicted of failing to stop for a school bus stop arm.

Under the Kadyn School Safety Act, first-time violators face fines of $250 to $675 and up to 30 days in jail. Additional offenses are punishable by $315 to $1,875 and up to a year in jail.

The Iowa Department of Transportation also has the authority to suspend the driver’s license for 30 days for a first conviction, 90 days for a second conviction, and 180 days for a third or subsequent conviction.