School bus drivers say cars illegally passing is ‘a growing problem’

The Wisconsin School Bus Association is asking for caution when sharing the road with school buses, as the number of illegal passes of a school bus climbs.
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 6:31 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin School Bus Association is asking for caution when sharing the road with school buses, as the number of illegal passes of a school bus climbs in the state.

The state participated in the National Illegal Passing School Bus Survey, which found a 15% rising rate of drivers illegally passing school buses when stopped with lights activated and stopping arm deployed. The Wisconsin School Bus Association says it will raise the state’s average to 40% in 2022.

“A drastic increase and it’s a great concern endangering our children’s lives, and we’re asking the motoring public to be aware of a school bus,” WSBA executive director Cherie Hime explained.

She says School Transportation News found that 10% of drivers who illegally pass a stopped bus do not care, while 45% are distracted, and another 45% may not know the laws protecting a stopped bus. For bus drivers trying to keep students safe, it can be frustrating seeing cars zip past a school bus stop sign.

These videos are from dash cameras in Kobussen Buses school buses and depict a few of the close calls, and illegal passes drivers see on the road.

“They’re simply not paying attention to our red lights,” said the regional manager for Kobussen Buses, Simon Gillham. “These are the students of our community; come on, let’s all be more aware and more vigilant about stopping for our buses.”

Gillham says the drivers watch cars pass illegally frequently and try to take down license plates to report to law enforcement. While some departments try to hand out citations, Gillham says others say they are too understaffed to chase down every car. He adds that the company even changes routes to reduce the danger to students, but the best way to keep kids safe is to obey the rules of the road.

These videos are from dash cameras in Kobussen Buses school buses and depict a few of the close...
These videos are from dash cameras in Kobussen Buses school buses and depict a few of the close calls, and illegal passes drivers see on the road.(Kobussen Buses)

“We have adjusted a lot of our routes, so we aren’t crossing kids on busy roads, but it’s not always possible; it’s very frustrating,” said Gillham.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, the rule for a stopped bus dropping off kids with a stopping arm out is as follows.

“A vehicle that approaches a stopped school bus that is displaying flashing red warning lights must stop not less than 20 feet from the bus and remain stopped until the bus resumes motion or the operator extinguishes the flashing red warning lights. Failure to do so could result in a fine between $30 and $300. This law does not apply to vehicles driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway but does apply if no barrier is present on multi-lane street or highway.”

WisDOT says 13 citations have been given by State Patrol this year, compared to 11 in 2020 and 22 in 2021.