Local residents and school transport personnel are up in arms over failure to yield to school buses that are stopped with lights on and sign out. Drivers are not only passing the buses illegally, some are going so far as to flip off the school bus.
According to representatives from Moriarty-Edgewood School District Transportation and Follow The Sun Transportation, Lexco Road, Dinkle Road, North 14, Highway 344 and Martinez Road are hot spots for this trouble.
“Typically, the streets that are fairly busy, that have slow speeds [are the worst],” said transportation supervisor Dan Bell of Moriarty-Edgewood schools, “217 is bad. Dinkle, between 344 and Quail is a bad spot. Frost is another bad one.”
“We had another vehicle pass a School Bus with flashing reds on,” wrote Robin Brown on Facebook, calling attention to school bus safety. “That makes two today. This one was a gold minivan at the corner of Lexco and Coyote Loop. The license plate was called in to police.”
Follow the Sun Transportation, which has 20 bus routes in the East Mountains for Albuquerque Public Schools, has stopped allowing students to cross North 14, for fear they’ll be killed in traffic. Some students have to ride the bus twice as long to get to their stop now, which is upsetting to parents.
According to Edgewood Police Chief Ron Crow, the department has been in the dark about this issue, but has the resources to focus on bus routes within its jurisdiction. “Definitely expect an increase in patrols in school zones and on bus routes,” he said.
Torrance County Sheriff’s Department had not replied at the time of publication.
Overtaking a school bus while the lights are in operation is a misdemeanor under NM Statute 66-7-347, and is punishable by a traffic fine. But the concern here isn’t the misdemeanor and fine.
“These kids are important to us drivers, just like they are to their parents,” says Moriarty-Edgewood schools driver April Shadden-Johnson. “All I ask drivers to do is follow the law and stop when the school bus signs are out, just like stop signs on the road.”
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department recently published a diagram on its Facebook page explaining the law, but Bell explained that it is only legal to continue past a school bus with flashing lights when there is a solid median or other physical barrier between your vehicle and the bus. “Whenever possible, we deliver the students door-side, on the right-hand side of the road, because it’s safer,” Bell said. “We’ve even had people passing the bus on the passenger side, on the shoulder of the road. We’ve had some pretty close calls.”
October 21-25 is National School Bus Safety Week, highlighting the more than 25 million children riding the bus each weekday in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 98 pedestrians under age 18 were killed in crashes related to school transportation between 2007 and 2016.