FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Passing a stopped school bus is against the law, but it is still a common occurrence. In this week's 'Road Report,' Rhiannon Walker spoke with officials from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District to find out how they are addressing this problem.
Drivers illegally passing school buses is a problem in Fairbanks, which can lead to accidents similar to one that happened in March of last year. No injuries were reported but there were students on the bus. According to the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Transportation Director, Ryan Hinton, it is a daily occurrence.
"Drivers need to stop within 30 feet of a school bus by Alaska state law. That is on any roadway that is not a separate roadway, so oncoming traffic or adjacent traffic. The only time that oncoming traffic would not need to stop for the red lights, and the stop arm deployed on a school bus, is when it is a separate highway such as the Richardson Highway or the Steese Highway, when they are divided by a median," he said.
The bus drivers are paying attention to those who pass them illegally.
"Our drivers do call it in when they see a motorist that passes them with the red lights on. They will take down the license plate and they will report that to the troopers," he said.
According to Alaska law, passing a stopped school bus when all the indicator lights are flashing can cost a driver six points on their license, 90 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Vehicle owners can be held responsible for the infractions even if they were not the ones driving.
Hinton says the best way drivers can help with safety is to stay aware of their surroundings and making sure their windows and windshields are free of snow. Students can help keep themselves safe by wearing light or reflective clothing and even carrying flashlights to make themselves more visible. Following these tips can help drivers ensure the goal of student safety.
Nationally in the last year, at least eight people, including five children, have been killed by drivers illegally passing school buses.