WASHINGTON — The City of Falls Church is resuming its program to cite drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses, which had been on hold for a year, after Virginia’s General Assembly fixed legal language to clarify how violators will receive citations.
“We launched this program in October of 2013. We found the program to be very effective,” says Susan Finarelli, public information officer with the City of Falls Church police department.
The program was halted in October 2015 after Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued an official advisory opinion about the matter.
“At issue was whether citations of those caught passing the bus could be mailed to the violator, or if they had to be served in person. When the bill for this school bus program was signed into law in 2011, it did not specifically include the citation-by-mail provision. So as a result we had to put the program on hold until that was worked out in the legislature,” Finarelli said.
During the time the program was suspended, it was still against the law to pass school buses while stop arms were deployed, but citations in Falls Church haven’t been issued since Oct. 2, 2015. That changes Monday.
How the program works
Sensors and cameras are mounted outside seven of the city’s 17 school buses.
When the stop arms are extended on those buses and lights are flashing, the sensors can detect when vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses.
“If a vehicle passes the school bus in either direction, a camera will take a photo of the license plate and the vehicle and a ticket will be mailed to that vehicle’s owner. The citation is $250,” Finarelli said.
“The only exception is if there is a divided highway — if there’s a barrier between you and the opposite direction such as a median strip,” Finarelli said.
She adds that there aren’t many such roads in Falls Church.
“We are very residential. So most likely if you see a school bus stopped, you need to stop as well.”
Falls Church police will review violation videos before citations are sent by mail.