MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As the start of the new school year approaches in Alabama, the state Department of Education’s Pupil Transportation Unit is reminding motorists of the laws that apply to school buses, and it is also reminding motorists to be cautious around buses.
Officials said unauthorized entry on school buses has increased dramatically in recent years.
Under the Charles “Chuck” Poland Jr. Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley earlier this year, trespassing on a school bus is a Class A misdemeanor.
A person commits the crime of trespassing on a bus in the first degree if he or she is found guilty of any of the following:
• Intentionally demolishing, destroying, defacing, injuring, burning or damaging any public school bus.
• Entering a public school bus while the door is open to load or unload students without lawful purpose while at a railroad grade or after being forbidden from doing so by the bus driver or an authorized school official.
• As an occupant of a public school bus, refusing to leave the bus after the driver or an authorized school official demands that he/she do so.
• Intentionally stopping, delaying or detaining any school bus from being operated for public school purposes with the intent to commit a crime.
Also under state law, all traffic from both directions on a two-lane roadway must stop when school buses stop for passengers.
In addition, traffic from both directions must stop for school buses on roadways with two lanes and a center turning lane; roadways with four or more lanes and a center turning lane; and roadways with four lanes and no median separation.
The rule, however, differs for traffic on roadways with four or more lanes that have a median separation. On these highways, only traffic following a school bus must stop. Traffic traveling in the opposite direction should continue moving.
The Department of Education’s Pupil Transportation Unit cited footage from a 2008 incident in Charleston, W.Va., in which a stop-arm runner just misses a passenger crossing the road after disembarking the bus, as evidence of the importance of following the state’s school bus safety laws.
Last week, the Arkansas Department of Education launched a school bus safety campaign for the new school year.