There is a new law in Georgia regarding when drivers must stop for school buses, and it could put the state’s children at risk. Prior to the new law, when a school bus stopped on the road, drivers on both sides of the road were required to stop. This allowed for the child to disembark the bus safely, particularly if they had to cross the road. However, that is no longer the case.
As of July 1, 2018, drivers on the opposite side of the road of the bus may not have to stop, depending on the situation. House Bill 978 states that now, when drivers are on a four-lane highway, and there is a median or other type of barrier separating the highway, drivers on the opposite side of the school bus do not have to stop. Those on the same side of the road as the school bus are still required to stop.
While it is reasonable to assume that a barrier dividing the highway may be enough to keep a child safe from vehicles on the opposite side of the road, the problem lies in what the bill identifies as a separation. It states that even a left-hand turn lane may be considered a separation. Children can easily disembark a school bus and cross a left-hand turn lane, making it possible for them to get hit by vehicles traveling on the other side of the road because they were not required to stop.
“The law does state that those vehicles on the opposite side of the road must continue to exercise caution,” says Jeff Shiver of Shiver Hamilton, “but many drivers cannot be trusted to do so. Drivers are already illegally passing school buses on a regular basis. If they are willing to do this, why would they use caution when they are not on the same side of the road and not required to stop?”
The bill was passed despite the fact that a school transportation group strongly argued against it.