New bill, new rules for stopping for school buses

(Source: WGCL)

Do drivers have to stop if they encounter a school bus stopped on the other side of a center turn lane? The answer to that question depends on how you interpret House Bill 978.

"That's what makes this very confusing, the way it's written," says Sam Ham, Executive Director of Transportation for Fulton County Schools. "If they just would have left that language out of the bill, it would have been just fine."

Senator Christian Coomer, one of the bill's sponsors, says the intent of that part of the bill is to clarify the already existing law.

"It sounds like from the reaction to the bill that frankly we may have not achieved our goal of making it clearer because there is come confusion from the language that was actually passed."

The language states that "the driver of a vehicle upon a highway that separate roadways or a divided highway, including but not limited to, a highway divided by a turn lane, need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway or on another half of a divided highway."

Coomer said drivers were never required to stop for school buses at divided highways.

He said if there's a turn lane, that road is considered divided.

"Some jurisdictions were saying this turning lane means it's no longer a divided highway and you have to stop. Other jurisdictions were saying the turn lane doesn't change the character of the highway and you don't have to stop," he says.

Coomer believes House Bill 978 clarifies the law but CBS46 has found that it's only confused drivers.

Ham fears that if not clarified, the law, which will go into effect July 1 would put students in danger.

"We are now seeking legal counsel to tell us to interpret and to make sure that everybody is on the same page with what this definition is."

CBS46 also received a statement from Karmen Mesch, the Director of the Georgia School Bus Drivers Association:It is our belief that House Bill 978 provides an unsafe environment for students loading and unloading. In an ideal situation, House Bill 978 makes sense. But, we do not live in a perfect world. Accidents happen. Should an accident happen on the roadway where traffic is still moving, our students are put in a potentially perilous situation. I have been in school bus transportation for 27 years and I have seen and heard of accidents involving school buses and near misses involving school buses. It is safer for our students to enter the loading and unloading zones when traffic is controlled. House Bill 978 does not ensure a completely safe loading and unloading zone for our children.Copyright 2018 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Multimedia Journalist

Recommended for you