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Posted at 1:03 PM ET, 02/15/2011

More school bus passing seen in Fairfax: Officials

By Tom Jackman
Tom Jackman

On the same day that the Virginia General Assembly took steps to amend a misworded law regarding passing stopped school buses, Fairfax County police said bus drivers are reporting an alarming increase in the number of people ignoring their flashing red lights and extended signs.

"Professional bus drivers with years of experience told us they're seeing record numbers of motorists driving recklessly around buses picking up and discharging students," said Lt. Butch Gamble of the Fairfax police traffic safety division on Monday.

"In the past year, we have had four students hit by motorists while on their way to school," County Schools Superintendent Jack Dale said. "In one instance, a child was crossing the street in a crosswalk when he was hit. I urge all motorists to exercise extreme caution when driving near school buses and bus stops."

At least one judge in Fairfax County has ruled in November that it is not illegal to pass a stopped school bus, due to an apparent missing word in the state statute.

The law currently reads:

A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.

The preposition "at" was deleted in 1970, and it could be argued that the comma after "stop" should be placed after the word "approaching."

After a Washington Post story on the awkwardly waritten law -- and the acquittal of John Mendez of Woodbridge -- members of the Virginia General Assembly, including Del. Scott Surovell (D-Alexandria), a criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax, moved to change the law.

The rewritten section now reads:

A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop such vehicle when approaching, from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons...any person violating the foregoing is guilty of reckless driving.

The bill passd the House unanimously on Feb. 4, and was reported out of the Senate's Courts of Justice committee on Monday.

By Tom Jackman  | February 15, 2011; 1:03 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax, From the Courthouse, Schools, Tom Jackman, Updates, Virginia  
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Comments

This law was probably challenged by some moron who actually hit a child and was trying to find a loophole in the system to get away with it....someone who didn't have time to stop and thought his time was more valuable than a child's life.

This is common sense regardless of whether there was a misprint or not! It's for the safety of the children and anyone who does not come to a complete stop should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law!!

Posted by: aktotlykrzy | February 15, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Two factors militate against bringing this offense under control:

1) School buses are on the roads as early as 6:00 a.m. -- dark.

2) Especially at 0-dark-hundred hours, drivers know that in their neighborhood the cops are generally not going to be out, much less looking to catch, school bus passers.

Posted by: clitteigh | February 15, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I take my kids to the bus stop on Route 7 and seeing the cars runs the stopped bus most of the time. Sadly, we accustomed to it and make the cars stop before loading the kids.

Posted by: nevercheck | February 15, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I take my kids to the bus stop on Route 7 and seeing the cars runs the stopped bus most of the time. Sadly, we accustomed to it and make sure the cars stop before loading the kids.

Posted by: nevercheck | February 15, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I don't pass the bus when it's stopped; however, it really irritates me to no end when the bus waits 2 or 3 full minutes for Little Johnny to meander 3 or 4 blocks to the bus. Or the bus driver and the parent have to converse for a few minutes (after all children are loaded & sitting) while the lights are flashing and traffic is held up.

And if you honk the horn to move these people along - oh my - you just lit the world on fire.

Posted by: ms1234 | February 15, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Decades ago in rural Ohio, our school bus drivers trained us to read the license plate numbers of illegally passing cars.

In 10 years of riding the bus, despite the 55MPH+ speed limits on the roads where the buses would stop, no bus I was riding in has a single instance of being illegally passed by a car.

Posted by: stuckman | February 15, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

The people who are passing stopped school buses are probably the same ones who zoom through school zones at 50 MPH, without any concern for the safety of children. There will always be a segment of our population who care about no one but themselves, and it's a shame.

Posted by: CAmira5 | February 15, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"This law was probably challenged by some moron who actually hit a child and was trying to find a loophole in the system to get away with it"

Story was in the Post several months back. The driver did not hit a kid.

Posted by: BEEPEE | February 15, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I hate school buses. I hate children too, but don't wish death on them. I just wish the breeders who decide to "bless" us all with their germ carrying, noisy, obnoxious heathen can get them back and forth to school themselves or home-school all of them. The rest of us don't need to stop every block to wait for some kid to finally decide to climb on to the dam bus. Or drive 10 miles below the speed limit for 20 miles down a two lane road because of a big yellow maggot. I cringe when I see school buses and when I can get away with it, without bloodying up my bumper, I will go around. I laugh at all you suckers who stop for the spawn of the stupid.

Let the backlash begin.....it's ok, I won't be back to read any of your stupid comments. I have fun things to do now, because I don't have children!

Posted by: BreedersBeDamned | February 15, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

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