In Prince George’s County, only 745 drivers ignored the buses as they picked up or dropped off students, but 136 cars passed a stopped bus on the door side, the highest in the state.
Statewide, there were 7,028 violations. Large, populous counties saw the most violations, with Baltimore County topping the state with 1,723.
Stop arms swing out from buses and lights flash when they pick up or drop off students. It is illegal to pass a school bus, no matter what side of the street the bus is on. The Maryland State Department of Education sponsored the survey to look at how often the law is violated.
“There was mounting concern about violations. A number of bus drivers and local citizens had mentioned that, and actually there’s a national movement to look at this sort of thing,” said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the state Department of Education. “I think Maryland was one of the first to really get involved and do something like this.”
Maryland Del. Tom Hucker, D-Silver Spring, is sponsoring a bill that would place monitoring cameras on county school buses to record motor vehicle violations.
“We knew it was a very rampant problem, and that’s why we put the bill in, but this only makes a stronger case for the bill and the need for the General Assembly to address the problem,” Hucker said.
Hucker said he thinks the committee is likely to pass a measure to improve school bus safety, because he and Del. Patrick Hogan, R-Frederick, have introduced similar legislation.
Hucker said the public might be concerned about placing cameras on school buses, but that people “might feel differently if their child was hit by a driver passing a school bus.”
“There’s always a lot of concern about expanding cameras and there’s some talk of doing a pilot program in one or two counties, and I certainly hope they’ll do it in Montgomery County.”
The state Education Department coordinated the survey with school transportation directors in all 23 counties and Baltimore City. More than 4,000 school bus drivers took part in the survey, representing 65 percent of school bus drivers.