Number of bus sign violations increases in county
One-day survey shows 15 percent jump in drivers failing to stop
The number of school bus stop arm violations in Charles County has reached a five-year high, according to a one-day survey sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education.
The survey was conducted on a single day last April in all 24 Maryland school districts, and is considered a snapshot of illegal activity on the road. Approximately 76 percent of Maryland school bus drivers took part in the sur vey.
Statewide, the number of reported stop arm violations was 4,326 — a significant increase over the 2,795 reported stop arm violations in 2015.
“Maryland schools have reopened for the new year, and all drivers must re-focus on the safety of our children. It is illegal to pass a bus with its stop arm extended and its lights flashing,” said Karen Salmon, Maryland superintendent of schools, in a MSDE news release. “It is clear that we have more to do as we all work to keep students out of harm’s way.”
In Charles County, where 95 percent of bus drivers participated, there were 178 reported stop arm violations, an approximately 15 percent increase over the 155 reported stop arm violations in 2015.
The 2016 figure is the highest since the first year of the survey, when 213 violations were
In neighboring Prince George’s County, the number of reported violations nearly tripled, from 230 in 2015 to 658 in 2016. In St. Mary’s County, the number of reported stop arm violations nearly doubled, from 36 in 2015 to 65 in 2016.
In Calvert County, the number of reported violations actually dropped from 39 in 2015 to 20 in 2016.
Michael Heim, Charles County Public Schools assistant superintendent of supporting services, said he was unsure as to why there is an increase in Charles County.
“As more and more people move into the county, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of traffic. Charles County has a large commuter population, and many of the vehicles are on the road at the same time as our buses,” Heim said. “Part of it could be distracted drivers, more people who are texting or using cell phones while driving.”
Heim said the transportation department works closely with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police to target areas where high numbers of stop arm violations have occurred.
Heim urged drivers to stop when they see the flashing red lights of the bus’s arm.
“It’s a serious safety concern for the children of Charles County when drivers are distracted and don’t stop,” Heim said.
Last month, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) released more than $500,000 to local law enforcement agencies to assist in enforcing Maryland school bus safety laws. The grants will be used to pay for police overtime and public education programs, according to a MSDE news release.