WIS GM: 563 school bus violations are 563 too many

The following Perspective is an expression of opinion by the Editorial Board at WIS, and presented by General Manager Donita Todd.

Recently WIS covered the tragic story of a youngster killed while crossing the street to catch his school bus.  Although it has not been determined that any law was broken in this accident, school districts know the risks of drivers not adhering to the state school bus law. So they try to create routes where students do not have to cross the road.

Current state law requires drivers in all directions  on a two lane road to stop when bus lights are on and the stop arm is out. On a multi-lane road, drivers coming from the opposite direction don't have to stop, but drivers behind the bus must stop.

Each year, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services does a one-day study in South Carolina.  During the 2011-12 school year, the state had 368 violators in one day, and for a 2012-13 school day, that count increased to 562 violators. With that high number of violators, school officials think changing the state law will make students safer because violators will not go unpunished.

Our WIS investigation found that the law, as it's written, doesn't protect children because video evidence isn't allowed to fine a violating driver. Without the law allowing video camera evidence, school officials say prosecution typically does not happen.

Senate Bill 718 could be a solution. This bill would equip the state's school bus stop arms with a camera to catch violators and allow the evidence to be given to law enforcement.  This bill was proposed last year and currently sits in the Senate Transportation Committee.  For the safety of our school children, talk to your legislators and urge them to consider passage of this bill.

That's my perspective.

Write to Perspective at P.O. Box 367, Columbia, SC 29202, or send an email.