School bus stop-arm violations increase in Maryland

Single-day survey of bus drivers reported more than 4,300 drivers who failed to stop when bus arm was extended.

More than 4,300 drivers in a single day in Maryland failed to halt their vehicles when stop arms on school buses were extended, a survey by the state's education department has found.

The department says the good news is that the total is much less that the 7,011 violations that were recorded when the survey began in 2011. The bad news is the number is a sizable jump compared with the 2,795 violations recorded in 2015.

“It is clear that we have more to do as we all work to keep students out of harm’s way,” says Karen B. Salmon, state superintendent of schools.

Stop arms swing out from the side of a bus, and lights flash whenever the vehicle is making an on-roadway student pick-up.

In a one-day survey in April 2016 that encompassed 76 percent of Maryland's school drivers, 4,326 violations of stop-arm traffic rules were recorded, the department says.

The 2016 increase is particularly concerning, the department says, because violations had been on a steady decline since yearly surveys began, and schools, bus drivers and police have worked to raise awareness about stop arm violations.

Large systems with more buses and bus routes recorded the most violators. Baltimore County had 1,002, and Montgomery County had 999. In addition, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties all saw increases in their totals.

Concerns over school bus safety prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to release more than $500,000 last month to local law enforcement agencies to help them enforce school bus safety laws.

The grants will pay for overtime for police officers who patrol streets when school buses are on the road, and for public education programs to inform drivers about the law requiring drivers to stop when a school bus has stopped to pick up or drop off passengers.

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