Q & A with Nevada, Colo-Nesco Transportation Director about safe driving around school busses

Compiled by Marlys Barker Nevada
Journal Editor

Jason Sampson, Nevada and Colo-Nesco transportation director, is concerned about a number of stop-arm violations this school year. He provides answers in the following piece to help explain how drivers should react when they are around school buses.

What are the laws concerning school bus stop arms?

Go to Iowa Code 321.372, where you find the following: The driver of a vehicle, including the driver of a vehicle operating on a private road or driveway, when meeting a school bus with flashing amber warning lamps, shall reduce the vehicle’s speed to not more than 20 miles per hour, and shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop when the school bus stops and the stop signal arm is extended. The vehicle shall remain stopped until the stop signal arm is retracted, after which time the driver may proceed with due caution.

The driver of a vehicle, including the driver of a vehicle operating on a private road or driveway, overtaking a school bus shall not pass a school bus when red or amber warning signal lights are flashing. The driver shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop no closer than 15 feet from the school bus when it is stopped and the stop arm is extended, and the vehicle shall remain stopped until the stop arm is retracted and the school bus resumes motion.

The driver of a vehicle upon a highway providing two or more lanes in each direction need not stop upon meeting a school bus which is traveling in the opposite direction, even though the school bus is stopped.

How many violations have you had this school year?

Five violations since Sept. 15

How does the number of violations this year compare to previous years? We are trending up in numbers.

Why do you think most stop arm violations occur? This year, being in a hurry this year seems to be the reason. Patience is needed.

What happens if there’s been a stop arm violation? We fill out an official stop-arm violation report that we get from the State Police. We pull video and watch and ensure that there is a clear violation. All of our buses are equipped with stop-arm cameras. We provide the authorities with a snapshot of the vehicle with license plate and video if necessary. After the violation is filled out, we have 72 hours from time of violation to hand it over to proper authorities (local or county) and forward copies to the assistant district attorney.

How does a person get tracked down? The proper authorities do their magic and present the violators with a ticket when they track them down.

Who all is involved in the process? So we have the driver of the bus, who initially sees the violation. They fill out the report and the office verifies that it happened from the stop-arm video. From there it goes to the proper authorities and assistant DA. If it is fought, we go to court and provide our evidence. Most cases, as soon as they see the video, settle and plead guilty.

As winter arrives, what other safety issues do people need to think about where buses and kids are concerned? The poor weather and more students not actually waiting at stop, which means they will be running to the bus at times, which increases chances of something bad happening.

What do you do to promote safety issues among your drivers for Nevada and Colo-Nesco? We have some of the best drivers here in Nevada and Colo-Nesco. We all need reminders once in awhile. We like to do radio messages when necessary to help remind drivers of specific issues for that day.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention? Please keep aware of your surroundings. We pick up your students in the rural areas, too.