BELL COUNTY (September 30, 2013) --- Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange says he’s cracking down on drivers who pass school buses in violation of state traffic laws.
Lange said he decided to follow buses to check for himself after he received several complaints from bus drivers in rural communities about motorists passing buses while bus stop signs were out
"Regardless of the highway any time you pass a school bus it's a dangerous situation, it's just incomprehensible to me why anyone would want to even consider doing it when the safety of our students is involved," Lange said.
State law requires approaching drivers to stop whenever a school bus is stopped and displaying either flashing red lights or a stop sign.
Violators can be fined as much as $1,250 and subsequent violations within five years of the first are punishable by maximum fines of $2,000.
So far this school year Lange said he's written warnings to 10 drivers.
"I've written about 10 warnings and as you know the minimum fines went up for passing a school bus to a minimum of $500 up to $1,250 so if I write a ticket plus court costs it's going to be a minimum of $600," Lange said.
Lange said parents and bus drivers have appreciated the extra presence of patrols around the buses to make sure drivers obey the law.
"Seeing the deputy out there makes them obey the lights,” Robinson ISD bus driver C.J. Wilde said.
Lange said some districts have also redrawn their bus routes to make sure students don't have to cross highways to get to their homes from the bus.
Rogers ISD Superintendent Jason Gilstrap said he hopes drivers will begin to be more aware of the flashing lights and stop signs on the buses and take more precautions when they approach the stopped buses.
"Whenever somebody's approaching the school bus that's stopped if they want to put on their flashers it definitely helps everybody else around them so there's a reason to be slowing down," Gilstrap said.