Vigilance needed with stop-arm regulations

When a school bus stops, its lights begin flashing and a red stop arm extends from the side, do you know what to do? You should.

Unfortunately, too many drivers don’t know the rules or ignore them. That puts the lives of children at risk when getting on and off buses. That should not be allowed to happen.

Because of motorists’ ignorance or disregard of stop-arm rules, Columbus Police Department has been cracking down on offenders. As part of their strategy, officers sometimes ride school buses, and unmarked vehicles have been placed near bus routes. Both are intended to catch offenders in the act.

This wouldn’t be necessary if motorists were aware of or followed the rules regarding stop arms:

Vehicles must stop, from either direction, for a school bus that is stopped for loading or unloading children and displays or has recently displayed a stop-signal arm. This rule does not apply if the bus is on the opposite roadway of a divided highway that has a curbed median.

If you are on the same side of a median-divided highway as a stopped school bus with stop arm extended, you must stop.

On multiple-lane streets with no curbed median, all lanes of traffic are required to stop in both directions.

The traffic citation for disregarding a school bus stop arm is a Class A infraction. That makes it more serious than most traffic tickets and carries a fine of up to $10,000.

One way police could further ramp up awareness about stop-arm rules is to conduct blitzes, similar to those performed to catch drunken drivers. Those tend to make motorists think twice about drinking and driving — a benefit to all other motorists.

A few public, concentrated efforts to catch stop-arm violators would spread the word and make people more aware of young school bus riders and the rules intended to keep them safe.