More than 2,200 drivers have been charged with illegally driving past a stopped school bus in the Washington, D.C., suburbs in the past three years, according to a review by the News4 I-Team.
Those violations endanger the well-being of children boarding the buses and people standing nearby.
The violations also include a series of dangerous driving maneuvers recorded during the 2014-2015 school year by undercover I-Team cameras at three bus stops: One along State Route 355 in Gaithersburg, another along State Route 410 in Riverdale and a stop near the Fairfax city line at Route 29 in Fairfax County. At each of those bus stops, the I-Team cameras captured images of drivers bypassing the bus stop signs, even as children were standing or walking in close proximity. In at least once instance, a driver is seen nearly collided with an adult crossing the street, near the Gaithersburg stop.
A review of state court records and motor vehicle agency reports show the violations are widespread and growing in some D.C.-area communities. Virginia state records show a 10 percent increase in drivers charged with illegally bypassing school buses each year between 2011 and 2013. The I-Team found 155 drivers cited for doing so in Arlington County over a recent three-year stretch. Drivers in Fairfax County were cited 655 times during the same time frame. Drivers in Loudoun County were cited 61 times, the I-Team found.
Fairfax County police reports show 771 citations issued for illegal school bus passing. A large number of those citations were given at a bus stop along Route 29, near Circle Woods, police said.
At the bus stop along State Route 355 south of Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, a stop known by police to be a frequent site of school bus bypassing violations, the I-Team found 57 drivers were cited for doing so in 2014. I-Team cameras recorded several images of drivers doing so late in spring 2015.
Along the State Route 410 bus stop in Prince George’s County, along the 6900 block of the road in Riverdale, I-Team cameras captured images of more than a dozen violators in recent months. Ida Cham, whose granddaughter boards the bus at the stop, says violations are frequent. Cham said, “It happens every day. It happens in the morning or when they come back from school. The cars don’t stop for them.”
Prince George’s County Police Cpl. Scott Ainsworth said school bus bypassing violations are frequent at the State Route 410 stop. Ainsworth said, “Even though drivers don’t admit it, they’re distracted. Cell phones, navigational devices and all of those new gadgets that come with new cars, it’s all very distracting.”
Drivers Charged With Illegally Driving Past/Near Stopped School Buses in Maryland 2012-2014:
- Prince George’s County: 463
- Montgomery County: 482
- Anne Arundel County: 372
- Frederick County: 70
- Howard County: 134
- Charles County: 219
- St. Mary’s County: 172
Drivers Charged With Illegally Driving Past/Near Stopped School Buses in Virginia 2011-2013:
- Fairfax County: 655
- Arlington County: 154
- Loudoun County: 61
In Maryland and Virginia, drivers are required to stop for school buses when the buses' red flashers are on, even if the buses' stop sign is not yet deployed. Drivers must also stop if the bus is loading or unloading passengers and the signals are not on.
The only exception is when the buses are on the opposite side of a highway divided by a barrier or median strip. However, drivers should be aware for unexpected actions by persons exiting the school bus.