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COLUMBIA – Recent changes in state legislation now allow law enforcement to use video obtained from school bus cameras to make charges for passing a stopped school bus.
“The highway patrol continues to receive reports of people disregarding the stop arms and flashing lights of school buses,” said S.C. Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith. “We are pleased that law enforcement will have another tool to help us make our school bus routes even safer for children.”
The legislation was championed by Sen. Thomas Alexander (R-1) and signed into law in June. It gives the S.C. Highway Patrol and other law enforcement an additional tool to use when making cases for a stop arm violation.
Alexander commended Gov. Nikki Haley and the state General Assembly for working together to get the measure passed.
“The previous law required law enforcement to witness the violation. We needed to give law enforcement a chance to be successful at enforcing stop arm violations. I see this new law as the eyes of law enforcement when they are not present,” Alexander said.
According to the SCDPS, the agency has received more than 540 complaints about motorists passing stopped school buses from the S.C. Department of Education since 2013. In that same time period, SCDPS and local law enforcement agencies across the state have issued 159 citations for disregarding a stop arm. Now, the new legislation (56-5-2770) says that video from cameras mounted on the school bus can be used to help law enforcement cite and prosecute violators.
When a violation occurs, the state Department of Education will send a complaint form to SCDPS from the school districts. The S.C. Highway Patrol will send a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle making them aware that the violation occurred and that the appropriate law enforcement agency will be investigating to make the applicable charges.
The minimum fine for a first offense is $500 plus court fees, which can total up to $1,000 and six points on the violator’s driving record. The minimum fine for a second offense is a $2,000 fine and six points on the violator’s driving record.
When to stop
On two lane roads, motorists traveling in both directions must stop. On four or more lane roads, motorists approaching a school bus from the opposite direction do not have to stop. Motorists behind the bus must stop.
With schools getting back in full swing, Smith said the public should expect to see more troopers and blue lights on school bus routes and in school zones.
Smith said troopers will also be following school buses in areas where there are a high number of reported violations.