Modesto children just might find themselves with a taller passenger or two riding school buses with them Tuesday.
Statewide, the California Highway Patrol will conduct a school bus pedestrian safety operation. Officers will ride with students to watch for drivers who fail to stop for a bus with its flashing red lights on. The officers will communicate violations to patrol units following nearby.
Drivers seen illegally passing a school bus during the safety operation will be stopped and issued a warning or a traffic citation.
In Stanislaus County, the operation will be along Modesto City Schools bus routes, said Officer Thomas Olsen, spokesman for the Modesto-area CHP office. Officers will meet with bus drivers at the MCS bus yard prior to student pickup.
When a school bus flashes its red lights (located at the top front and back of the bus), drivers in both directions must stop until the children are safely across the street and the lights stop flashing, the CHP says. Drivers who fail to stop may be fined up to $1,000 and have their driving privilege suspended for a year.
“Yellow flashing lights on a school bus warn a driver to slow down and prepare to stop,” a CHP news release says. “If the school bus is on the other side of a divided or multi-lane highway (two or more lanes in each direction), you do not need to stop.”
In October 2016, the California Association of School Transportation Officials reached out to the CHP for assistance concerning school bus pedestrian safety. The group provided the results of the annual California Department of Education School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey. The one-day statewide survey of 137 school districts and nine school bus contractors found that over 26,000 motorists failed to stop for a school bus that was stopped to load or unload students.
The Modesto CHP has participated in the school bus operation before, Olsen said. The project is meant to educate and remind motorists, parents, and students of the importance of school bus pedestrian safety. The message will be conveyed by distributing school bus pedestrian safety tip cards, displaying posters at schools and posting videos on social media.