Tim’s Law: Slow down and prepare to stop

By TIM BEELAND,

Monday morning on my way to the office — about halfway between Sebastopol and Forest — one of the ever present Scott County School buses heading toward us, with yellow lights flashing, slowed and looked to be about to stop. The chicken truck driver in front of me slowed down and then eased on past. I did the same thing since the red stop sign and flashing red lights had not yet appeared. It made me wonder, though, just what is the proper procedure when it comes to stopping for school buses.
Obviously, everyone knows, or should know, that the law requires motorist to stop for loading and unloading buses. But my question, that I asked out loud to myself, was at what point are we supposed to stop? When we see the flashing yellow lights? Or would it only be when the red stop sign is sticking out from the side of the bus and the red lights are flashing?
Clearly for safety’s sake, it’s yellow, right? That’s what it is supposed to be with regular traffic lights at intersections, right? Don’t the yellow lights mean stop? Or is it just prepare to stop?
One thing for certain around these parts is that some folks think the yellow means speed up and get on through. Thinking that is not the legal way to do things, and seeing drivers do the same with school buses often, I opted to research the matter.
Mississippi Code 63-3-615, which was amended by Nathan’s Law in 2011 states:
“The driver of a vehicle upon a street or highway upon meeting or overtaking any school bus that has stopped on the street or highway for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children shall come to a complete stop at least 10 feet from the school bus before reaching the school bus when there is in operation on the school bus the flashing red lights, or when a retractable, hand-operated stop sign is extended; the driver shall not proceed until the children have crossed the street or highway and the school bus has resumed motion or the flashing red lights are no longer actuated and the hand-operated stop sign is retracted.” That’s a long sentence!
Nathan’s Law honors Nathan Key, a Laurel youngster who died in 2009 at the age of five after being hit by a vehicle while he was getting off of a school bus.
In addition to the above, Nathan’s Law includes the following:
• Authorizes a charge of felony assault and a prison sentence of up to 20 years for motorists convicted of illegally passing a school bus that, in the process, results in injury or death.
• Authorizes cameras be equipped on school bus stop arms to film perpetrators in the act.
• Required the development of at least 10 questions relating to school bus safety on a driver’s license test.
• Established a School Bus Safety Task Force.
• Prohibits school bus drivers from using cell phones, wireless communication devices, vehicle navigation systems or “personal digital assistants” while operating the bus, except in an emergency.
• Increased the fine for passing a stopped school bus.
That’s all I could find.
The Mississippi Driver’s Manual says the same thing and everywhere else I looked I found the same answer as well. No mention of the yellow flashing lights on school buses. So, I will make the determination — call it Tim’s Law — that one should follow the same procedure as outlined in the manual for traffic signals, slow down and prepare to stop.
In addition, I have noticed more and more bus drivers who, when loading and unloading, now use their buses to block, at an angle, the lane of oncoming traffic or to block a driver attempting to pass from the rear. Perhaps that should become standard procedure.
Anything, in my book, to protect the kiddos!

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