ATLANTA — The state Senate passed a bill on Thursday to reverse a provision in a law that apparently loosened the requirement for when motorists had to stop for a stopped school bus.
As SBF previously reported, changes made to state law in House Bill 978, which went into effect on July 1, 2018, raised concerns in the state’s pupil transportation community. The main cause for alarm was over the revision to apparently let motorists pass a stopped school bus if they are on the opposite side of a highway divided only by a turn lane, as opposed to the previous requirement of a physical median like a grass strip. (Another concern was over a provision that reduced fines for school bus passing violations.)
Senate Bill 25 would change the law back, to only allow motorists to drive past a stopped school bus when on the opposite side of a highway with roadways “that are separated by a grass median, unpaved area, or physical barrier.” The bill passed unanimously in the Senate. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, which has its own version: House Bill 75, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
"We’re pleased to see this moving through the Georgia legislature," said Pat Schofill, director of pupil transportation for the Georgia Department of Education. "Our State School Superintendent, Richard Woods, has been clear about his concerns that the 2018 change put students’ safety at risk. We’re hopeful the change will be reversed and Georgia law will better reflect best practices to keep our kids safe."
Schofill, who is also the Georgia state director for the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, added that the support of local transportation directors, concerned community members, and law enforcement organizations also helped bring to light the confusion caused by the 2018 change in the law.
State Sen. Bill Heath, who sponsored Senate Bill 25, told WSBTV that he had received complaints about the initial change to the requirement and realized “they had made a terrible mistake.” Heath and other lawmakers rushed to reverse the change, according to the news source.