Sheriff’s Department cracking down on illegal passing of school buses

The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department is heightening awareness and enforcement of illegally passing school buses in response to concerns expressed by West of the I schools.

Bristol School District administrator Gale Ryczek and Wheatland Center School principal Patti Clements have expressed concern to the Sheriff’s Department about cars illegally passing school buses. A particularly high number of violations occur on Highway 50, which within the boundaries of both districts.

Sheriff’s Department representatives acknowledge that part of the problem may be some confusion about rules for buses stopped on a divided highway like Highway 50.

“Sometimes I think people aren’t sure what to do when they see the bus stopping on the four-lane highway,” said Sheriff David Beth.

The law says that when the red flashing lights of a bus are on, a car must stop at least 20 feet away from the bus, and stay stopped until the lights are turned off. The stop sign included on most buses doesn’t even need to be out. Just the red lights need to be on.

On a divided highway, like Highway 50, all lanes of traffic on the same side as the bus must stop when the red lights come on. The cars on the opposite side of the median do not need to stop. On a four-lane road that is not divided by a median both directions of traffic in all lanes must stop.

Deputies are actively enforcing the laws. For example, Deputy Dave Gomez, who patrols Bristol, said last Friday that he gave four citations last week for illegal passing of buses.

When confronted, some of those drivers said they did not think they did pass a bus.

“A lot of them say ‘no way,'” said Gomez, who often is able to position his squad’s camera to record the violations. “I say, do you want to see the tape?”

Last Friday, Deputy Raymond Rowe rode on a Bristol bus at the end of a half day of school. Working with Gomez up ahead in a squad car, Rowe — with me along — was hoping to see the problem firsthand.

On the first three of four stops along the route that Dousman Transport bus driver Sandy Szwedo made on Highway 50 everyone stopped behind the bus. Not so on the last stop. Here’s video of what happened (the video picks up just as the bus’ red lights go on):

Gomez was able to pull over two of the cars. Each got a ticket. Conviction of the violation will cost $343 under Bristol’s ordinances. Most other jurisdictions have a fine of $326, Rowe said.

One of the drivers that Rowe talked to said he thought the lights meant he should pass the bus. But Rowe said he pointed out to the driver that most other traffic did stop and knew the rules.

Drivers tempted to pass a bus should take no comfort from not seeing a squad car in in the area. The law also says that the owner of a vehicle can receive a citation for illegally passing a school bus even if they were not the driver, Rowe said. I.D can be made from the license plate and a description of the vehicle.

In the end, the  Sheriff’s Department representatives say the rule is in place not to catch people or impede drivers but for the safety of the children on and getting in or out of the bus.

“The safety of our county’s children is of the utmost importance, so informing the public is key,” Beth said. “I would rather educate drivers about the right thing to do, than write a single traffic ticket. But sometimes the only way to get the point across is by writing a ticket.”

In the coming weeks, deputies will be planning to be on more school buses in order to check for compliance, said Sgt. Bill Beth, Sheriff’s Department spokesman.


Comments are closed.

  • Follow us on

  • Archives