Classes at Montgomery County public schools will begin on Monday, Aug. 25, so drivers should expect more traffic on the roads during rush hours. And a big part of the added traffic will be school buses, and county officials want to remind drivers that passing a stopped school bus could cost up to $570.
In January 2014, Montgomery County began implementation of an automated school bus camera enforcement program. Every driver should know that when approaching a stopped school bus with activated stop sign and flashing red lights, Maryland law requires that all traffic from both directions must stop and remain stopped until the stop sign and lights are de-activated. That includes when driving on a two-lane roadway, a two-lane roadway with a center turning lane and a four-lane roadway without a median separation.
The only exception is for a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation. The lanes of traffic separated by the median and going in the opposite direction from the bus do not have to stop. Traffic going in the same direction of the bus, does of course, have to stop.
The automated school bus camera enforcement program continues to expand and is designed to allow the cameras to be moved throughout the county as needed. These violations are reviewed by the police department’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit (ATEU) and citations are mailed to the registered owner. The fine from the automated enforcement is $125.00. No points are associated with a citation issued through this program. However, if a driver is stopped by a police officer for passing a stopped school bus with flashing lights, the fine is $570 and 3 points.
Montgomery County Police remind drivers that it is very important to obey the posted speed limit and pay close attention to their surroundings at all times.
Safety Tips for Parents, Motorists, and Children
Expect delays near schools. Know your route, start early, and drive the posted speed limit.
Motorists not involved in dropping off or picking up students should consider adjusting their route or schedule in order to avoid arrival and dismissal traffic in front of schools.
Park only in lawful areas. Parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk is against the law and can obstruct visibility for both pedestrians and motorists.
Unload school children onto the sidewalk or the right side of the vehicle. Unloading school children into a traffic lane could put a child in harm’s way.
Always obey the directions given by an adult school crossing guard and a student safety patrol.
Instruct children to remain alert and look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.
Students should walk on a sidewalk if available or if one is not available, walk facing the traffic
Pedestrians should not use cell phones to talk or text or wear headphones when crossing the street.
Students riding bikes to school must follow all traffic rules and signs, i.e. stop signs and traffic lights.
Ride on the right side of the road and come to a complete stop before crossing a street.
By law, all children under the age of 18 must wear a bicycle helmet (positioned level on the head to cover the forehead) when riding or being carried on a bicycle while riding on a public street, right-of-way, or on a bicycle path.
The start of school is also a good time to remind children of basic safe practices. Children should not speak to strangers and, once they are home, they should not open or answer a knock at the door if an adult is not present without first determining who is there. Children should have a list of parents’, neighbors’, and/or relatives’ phone numbers that they can call for assistance. Children should also know when it is appropriate to call 9-1-1 and 301-279-8000, the police non-emergency number.