Montgomery Co. school bus safety report shows fewer cars passing stopped buses

There are fewer drivers blowing past stopped school buses in Montgomery County, Maryland, and 91% of drivers cited don’t do it again, according to police.

Montgomery County police said there were a total of 54,766 violations involving drivers passing stopped school buses in the 2021-2022 school year, compared to 29,303 so far this year.

In a briefing before the county council’s Public Safety and Education and Culture committees, Council member Will Jawando referred to the tickets generated through automated cameras on the bus stop arms by saying, “One could assume that maybe the program is working.”

The fine for passing a school bus when it’s stopped with flashing lights and the stop arm extended is $250 when the violation is issued as a result of the automated camera. If a police officer issues a citation, the fine could be as high as $570, and drivers could face an added penalty of three points on their license.

Chris Tippery, director of automated enforcement for the police department, told the council committee, “That $250 is a good hit, and it definitely brings education to light,” noting that just 8% of drivers cited for a violation go on to repeat it. “I think that the program is working well,” he said.

Data submitted in the same document showed that there are five spots in the county where violations are being written. For the current school year up to Feb. 24, they were on:

  • 5100 block of River Road — 1,245
  • 8800 block of Colesville Road — 1,072
  • 1400 block of East West Highway — 997
  • 800 block of University Boulevard East — 608
  • 2300 block of Bel Pre Road — 328

Referring to those five hot spots, Montgomery County police Capt. Brian Dillman said, “A lot of these top locations are multilane,” explaining that drivers seem confused by when they need to stop for a stopped bus, and that the department is involved in education efforts on that front.

Cameras are also playing a role in capturing safety issues inside school buses, with 162 “serious incidents” reported. Those include fights, reports of weapons, drugs and medical incidents.

Montgomery County schools report good news on driver hiring

During the briefing, Gregory Salois, director of the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Department of Transportation, told council members that the school system has filled the vacant slots for bus drivers.

Salois described the start of the school year as “a little rough,” with administrators in his department filling in as needed, but he said, “As of the end of January, we are at a point where we are fully staffed.”

He said the department isn’t where it wants to be in terms of having added staff when needed, but, “We’re able to staff every run.”

Before school opened in August, the system was looking to fill 70 vacancies.

Minimum requirements posted on the MCPS website during the hiring effort in June included:

  • Must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Clean driving history — no more than one point on driver’s license.
  • At least three years of driving experience, with at least one year driving in the U.S.
  • Ability to meet all pre-service training and testing requirements.
  • Have a valid Maryland Class C license, CDL, or CDL permit.
Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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