Laws in Georgia regarding school buses have always had the goal of keeping kids safe. However, the most recent school bus legislation had somewhat of an opposite result. A flaw was discovered in the law itself that allowed drivers to bypass the school bus while students got on and off.
Governor Brian Kemp signed an ultimate fix into the law. The law unintentionally allowed drivers on some particular roads to pass stopped school buses. Drivers and officers have been wrestling with the specifics of the new Georgia bus law for months – specifically pertaining to when drivers are required to stop for a school bus stop arm.
As a Georgia DUI Attorney, I will outline the offense of the unlawful passing of a school bus. This can be a predicate offense to a DUI investigation or other traffic charges.
Unlawful Passing of a School Bus in Georgia
The criminal offense of unlawful passing of a school bus in Georgia is defined in O.C.G.A. §40-6-163 as:
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, the driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus stopped on the highway shall stop before reaching such school bus when there are in operation on the school bus the visual signals as specified in Code Sections 40-8-111 and 40-8-115, and such driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.
(b) The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway, or upon a controlled-access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.
(c) Every school bus driver who observes a violation of subsection (a) of this Code section is authorized and directed to record specifically the vehicle description, license number of the offending vehicle, and time and place of occurrence on forms furnished by the Department of Public Safety. Such report shall be submitted within 15 days of the occurrence of the violation to the local law enforcement agency which has law enforcement jurisdiction where the alleged offense occurred.
Simply - the law means that once the flashing lights have turned red and the stop signs have extended from the side of the school bus, it is unlawful for any vehicle to pass the stopped school bus while it is loading or unloading passengers. Cars on a highway divided by a median on the opposite side from the stopped school bus are not required to stop.
The consequences of being convicted of unlawfully passing a school bus include any lawful punishments allowed in a misdemeanor traffic offense.
This can include up to 12 months in jail or on probation, up to $1000 in fines, community service, defensive driving school, alcohol and drug counseling, etc. Moreover, the unlawful passing of a school bus carries 6 points. For a person under 21 years of age, there will be an automatic 6-month license suspension. Any person under the age of 21 convicted of a traffic offense having 4 or more points shall have their license suspended for 6 months. For drivers under the age of 18, accumulating 4 total points before age 18 will also result in a 6-month license suspension.
As a Georgia DUI Lawyer, I should also mention that passing a school bus also carries a minimum fine of $300 for a first offense. And the fine goes up from there with $750 for a second offenses, and $1000 for a third offense.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or received a serious traffic violation, such as DUI in Georgia, contact our offices today.