Montgomery County may double fines for passing school buses

WASHINGTON — So many drivers are passing stopped school buses in Montgomery County, the ticket fines for that violation may double.

“We’d like to go up to $250,” Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice tells NBC Washington.

Rice has sent a letter to the county’s chief judge asking for permission to raise the fine from $125 to $250.

Since January, school bus cameras have detected 733 violations of cars in Montgomery County that passed school buses that were stopped with red lights flashing and a stop sign extended.

That averages out to more than 91 violations a month during school-in-session months compared to just one school bus passing violation in Prince Georges County over the past two months.

In the same nine-month period, Washington County saw just over 100 tickets issued. In Frederick County, just four tickets have been issued.

“We’re off the charts compared to neighboring jurisdictions,” Rice says.

Those violations occurred during a period when Montgomery County had 25 school buses equipped with cameras to photograph cars passing illegally. There now are 35. Prince George’s County has 20 buses with those cameras.

The penalty led Montgomery County to net $78,250 in fines since the program started in January.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger tells NBC Washington many drivers break the no-passing law because they’re impatient. Also, he says he believes ignorance is partly responsible.

“When all there is is a painted line down the middle of the road of a four-lane highway, you can’t pass in either direction,” Manger says adding “paint does not protect.”

Traffic on a divided highway separated from stopped school buses by a median strip or protective barriers may legally proceed past buses stopped in the opposite direction. In that situation, only traffic following the bus must stop.

Each year, 19 students on average in the U.S. are killed getting on and off the bus. Maryland’s Department of Transportation reports most of the children killed are 5 to 7 years old.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPTraffic on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up