Pass Go When The Red Lights Are Flashing: $570 Fine, 3 Points

SOUTHERN MARYLAND (Aug. 29, 2008)—The first week of the 2008-2009 school year has come to an end and law enforcement officials across the region have stepped up efforts to protect children by ensuring that drivers obey state laws regarding school buses and crosswalks.

On average, more than 150 school-aged pedestrians are injured annually during school arrival and dismissal times, according to the State Highway Administration.

Maryland State Police troopers, with the assistance of grant money provided from the School Bus Enforcement Fund, established by the Maryland General Assembly in 2000, stepped up their enforcement of Maryland traffic laws related to school bus safety. The use of the grant funds enabled barracks to place troopers, working overtime, on special school bus patrols to help insure the safety of children traveling to and from school.

The violation most commonly observed by police continues to be motorists who fail to stop for the flashing red lights of school buses, according to MSP headquarters in Pikesville. When those lights are flashing, children are either boarding on disembarking from the bus. In many instances, children are crossing the roadway when the lights on the bus are flashing.

The Calvert County Sheriff's Office says they saw an increase during the previous school year in the number of drivers cited for not stopping for school buses picking up and dropping off children.

The Sheriff's Office says they work closely with the Calvert County Public Schools Department of Transportation and will be investigating complaints from school bus drivers.

Calvert Sheriff Mike Evans has also instructed deputies to conduct patrols targeting red light runners. "School is back in session and we will be conducting speed enforcement in school zones," said Evans. "We want to make sure drivers give their undivided attention to driving so that none of our young people get hurt."

Police in Charles County are also approaching student safety from a slightly different angle. Charles County Sheriff Rex. W. Coffey and members of the Charles County Sheriff's Office, along with school superintendent James Richmond and Charles County Public Schools staff, were present in schools on Monday to pass out flyers which contained information regarding driving laws aimed at teen drivers.

"Its part of our teen driving safety campaign designed to let students know that we care," said Sheriff Coffey.

Last year, nine teens died in traffic accidents in Charles County. "That's nine too many," said Coffey. "Students and parents should take a few minutes to read over the material and familiarize themselves with the laws that were designed to help protect them."

Richmond emphasized the importance of being informed saying, "We're going to combine our resources to make sure our teens and their parents get the facts."

The rules regarding stopping for school buses are:

-- It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing and its' stop arm is extended;

-- On undivided roadways, with no physical barrier or median, vehicles must stop on both sides of the roadway;

-- Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles; and

-- Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and children are getting on or off. Motorists approaching from either direction must wait until the red lights stop flashing before proceeding.

Police, who observe a motorist failing to stop and remained stopped for a school bus, can issue the violator a citation which carries a $570.00 fine and 3 points. Drivers failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk can be issued a citation for $80.00, and drivers failing to exercise due caution when encountering children can be issued a citation for $70.00.

Tips from the State Highway Administration for parents to communicate to their children regarding their safety in traffic.

Parents, your children aren't ready for school until they've had a review of the rules of the road:

-- Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and the street.

-- Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.

-- When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk ten giant steps away from the bus. Keep a wide distance between you and the bus. Also, remember that the bus driver can see you best when you are away from the bus.

-- Make sure that the driver can see you.

-- Be aware of the street traffic around you. Drivers are required to follow certain rules of the road concerning school buses, however, not all do.

When walking to school:

-- Cross the street at marked crosswalks and intersections whenever possible.

-- Always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing. Continue looking in this manner until you are able to cross safely.

-- With your parents, choose the quickest and safest route with the fewest street crossings.

-- Use intersections with crossing guards when possible.

-- If vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, pedestrians should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles—then stop, and look left-right-left again.

-- Obey and follow all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard.

-- Never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.

-- Walk your bike through intersections.

-- Walk with a buddy.

-- Wear reflective makes you more visible to street traffic.

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