More school bus passing seen in Fairfax: Officials
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.
| February 15, 2011; 1:03 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax, From the Courthouse, Schools, Tom Jackman, Updates, Virginia
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