I  think frequently about how to combat illegal bus passing.

All of you work to educate the public about the dangers of it and the laws that motorists are supposed to abide by around school buses, and this is, of course, a huge step in the right direction.  

But I’ve often asked myself why you should have to educate the public on these laws. I’ve always believed it’s something that people should learn in driver’s education class. If they’re not learning it there, how are they supposed to know those laws? Or if they are learning the laws there, is enough time spent on the subject? Statistics (see pg. 8 in the October issue) suggest that many people don’t know or remember them.
State-to-state snapshot
Patrick McManamon, transportation program specialist for the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles’ Enforcement and Safety Division, says that discussing the state’s school bus safety law is included in driver’s ed curriculums, but the content varies based on the instructor. The instructors use the state’s drivers’ manual in their classes, which includes when motorists must stop for a school bus with its red lights activated. And in North Carolina, an objective of driver’s education is that students will be able to explain the state’s yellow bus laws.

In Florida, state pupil transportation director Charlie Hood tells me that instructing on school bus stopping and safety laws may take place in some high school driver’s education programs, but driver’s ed is not a state-mandated course, so not all school districts and public charter schools offer it.

Hood says that mandating teaching of school bus laws within high school driver’s education would help, but it would be only a partial solution to the problem. 

“Not all students take driver’s ed, and the state does not have the statutory authority to mandate the specific curriculum,” he explains. “For that reason, a broader approach to education of all motorists, combined with greater enforcement, is necessary to mitigate the well-documented problem.”

Hood does agree that whether or not driver’s ed is mandated, the instruction should include the particular state’s laws related to what students and other motorists must do around school buses. 

“As should state driver licensing agencies’ driver handbooks or study guides,” he adds.

Grassroots efforts needed?
Since I took driver’s ed in high school here in California, I wasn’t aware that not all high schools are required to offer it, so I hadn’t considered Hood’s points.

If in some states students don’t have to take driver’s ed in school, perhaps grassroots efforts are necessary to get material on bus safety laws published in driver handbooks and study guides. And if the curriculum for driver’s education classes doesn’t cover such laws, or it does, but not extensively, maybe the information and the problems associated with stop-arm running could be made available through other means. 
David Poag of South Carolina’s Anderson School District Five created the Stop-Arm Violation Education Enforcement campaign, and one of the goals is to use monies collected from stop-arm violations caught by video surveillance cameras to educate about the dangers of such violations through literature for driver’s education classes.

If you’re working on these issues in your state, send me an e-mail.
Keep up the great work.