County Using GPS to Convict School Bus Scofflaws

Albemarle is using GPSs to crack down on drivers whizzing by stopped school buses, Brandon Shulleeta writes in the Daily Progress. No longer willing to tolerate people who ignore the flashing red lights and the prominent “STOP” sign displayed on the side of school buses when kids are climbing on or going home, the county is putting to work the $213k worth of bus-tracking systems that they bought a year ago to optimize bus routes and track their locations in real time. By having that trail of data, it becomes much easier to get a conviction against the drivers in court, although it remains necessary to get the car’s license plate number.

Consider this a reminder: Save for on a road with a median, you always have to stop for a school bus—on either side of the road—when it stops to discharge or pick up passengers. And while I’m handing out reminders, pull over to the far lane when an emergency vehicle is parked on the side of the road on a four-lane road, and, for God’s sake, how hard is it to pull over and let emergency vehicles pass?

25 Responses to “County Using GPS to Convict School Bus Scofflaws”


  • Waldo, with due respect in some areas of the county it is quite difficult to pull over for emergency vehicles. I think of Rt. 53 immediately as a lousy place to try to pull over. Rt. 29, 250 East or West, its alot easier. I know of a case where a man pulled over for a squad, lost it in the ditch and he is no longer with us. Rare but it does happen. I catch your bigger point, where possible pull over.

  • You could avoid the haughty tone, please. I might not have felt so annoyed when reading your article if you had. So, let me get this straight: You’ve never made a mistake when driving? I don’t normally drive during times buses are about so once I recall having a bus stopping on the other side of the road and I simply forgot this rule. I realized it when I saw the car behind me stopped, and next time I’ll stop. But I guess according to you I should be rotting in jail for my mistake. And now we’ll have tax payer money spent to ensure that people never make mistakes without punishment, and never bend any speeding rules without cameras handing down ssevere fines from on high. What a beautiful world you hall monitors have bestowed upon the rest of us! Have a nice day.

  • Bob:

    Failing to stop for a school bus is grossly more dangerous than speeding, or most other “mistakes” that we make when driving.

    The reason that people (like me) are so utterly psycho about this law is that there are children crossing the street to get on the bus. Not all of them have the judgment to LOOK before they cross, and so, in spite of all efforts to control the situation, the chances of a car hitting a child are high.

    Not to take a haughty tone, but, yes, I believe that violators of this particular law should be prosecuted very aggressively indeed.

    Different crimes require different levels of prosecution and punishment, I guess.

  • Agree with Hawkins Dale. There are few things more tragic than a kid getting hit because someone “forgot this rule”. (And it does happen). I’m 100% in favor of increased enforcement.

  • “Sorry, my mistake. Forgot the law. Did not mean to run over your daughter…not really my fault….I know it was your kid but stop being so haughty lady”

  • Waldo, with due respect in some areas of the county it is quite difficult to pull over for emergency vehicles.

    Don’t worry, HES, I’m not due much respect. ;) No, I totally get what you mean, and I think that’s a good point.

    So, let me get this straight: You’ve never made a mistake when driving? I don’t normally drive during times buses are about so once I recall having a bus stopping on the other side of the road and I simply forgot this rule. I realized it when I saw the car behind me stopped, and next time I’ll stop. But I guess according to you I should be rotting in jail for my mistake. And now we’ll have tax payer money spent to ensure that people never make mistakes without punishment, and never bend any speeding rules without cameras handing down ssevere fines from on high.

    Whoa. What now? “Rotting in jail”? Dude, relax. Listen, what you seem to be looking for is some sort of an impartial person who can hear about the circumstances of the infraction and determine what sort of punishment is appropriate. (In your case, for instance, you realized too late that you should have stopped.) I’ve got good news for you: just such a person exists! It’s called a “judge.”

  • I can’t help but feel that part of the problem is the way cars have morphed from mere transportation vehicles into extensions of a living room (cell phones, giant cupholders for our massive drinks, Barcalounger-style reclining seats, etc). When you’re sitting in your own living room absorbed in a phone conversation, you don’t listen for emergency vehicles coming up behind you or watch out for school buses stopping on the other side of the road. It must be very disorienting for these living-room drivers when they suddenly realize they’re on a highway with a lot of other cars!

    And for the record, I doubt anyone “forgets” the rule about stopping for a school buses. I think it’s more likely that the people who “forget” in fact were driving inattentively — they saw right past the school bus.

  • …And get off your cellphones and use your damned turn-signals, people. Jeez!

  • First- I’m Not the same Bob as posted above. Waldo can confirm that.

    Personally I hate school buses. There is one that takes Georgetown Road every afternoon. It stops 3 times- that is to say- it stops lets kids off. Drives forward 15 feet. Stops again lets more kids off, drives forward 20 feet and then stops again to let kids off. And not having kids I don’t hold their cargo in as high esteem as most people.

    HOWEVER- I do understand the need for the law and the inconvenience (perhaps not the inconvenience mentioned above- which I think should be just one stop- kids now days are getting fat- this might be one -of many- reasons). ;)

    But I see and appreciate the need for these laws. As someone who drives for a living- I see that law (and many others) violated too many times and always wished there were a cop nearby to write a ticket.

    I don’t know how GPS is supposed to facilitate that enforcement- but if it does- more power to them.

  • I wish they would put some GPS trackers on the school busses that speed through my city neighborhood every day. I once followed one clocking it at 40 mph (in a 25 mph zone) just to make sure I wasn’t crazy in thinking they were going way too fast.

  • I agree- we have buses hauling ass down our city street every day. My wife calls to complain and they just tell her the buses aren’t speeding, that it’s all in her head. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

    I hope they use it to ensure the bus drivers obey the speed limit.

  • I’m with Just Bob: how exactly does the GPS scheme help?

    Shulletta writes: “Using advanced global positioning system technology on buses, administrators and police are able to detect precisely when and where buses stop and whether the buses’ red lights and stop signs were used — crucial evidence in court trials.”

    I can see that whether the red lights and stop signs were used might be critical, but I don’t see how the GPS system provides an answer for that.

    As for the precisely where and when, I’m not buying it. Can’t you get that via the driver’s testimony? I mean, the GPS will tell you that the bus was stopped at 7:48 AM at X long Y lat, but it won’t tell you whether that is exactly when Joe Public passed the bus, so. And aren’t school buses pretty reliable creatures of habit?

    Cameras seem like they’d make a difference here, but if the GPS matters, I’d be worried that it would matter only because jurors/judges/cops are giving the seeming accuracy of the GPS undue importance given the pretty irrelevant information it is feeding up.

  • @Boss o’ Me and Mark

    Agree emphatically. I see city school buses driving too fast all the time on our street. I will say that Ms. Eubanks at the school transportation office has been very responsive to my calls (I’ve made several), and has even checked the electronic driving log of a bus in question (or at least convinced me that she did).

    I make a point of making a polite but emphatic “2” “5” gesture to these bus drivers when I’m able to catch them doing it (and if they make a one gun salute in return then they’ve got another reportable offense).

    Do take note of the bus number and call Ms. Eubanks if you witness this and are sure of the excessive speed (and of course the speed limit is not equivalent to safe speed…the old driver ed adage).

  • I have taken numbers and I have actually gone down in person to speak to Charlottesville police. I have called the bus dispatcher and even spoke to someone in the superintendent’s office.

    School busses still speed past my house on a daily basis. It has been that way for years, and as I noted above, I actually followed one at 40 mph in a 25 mph residential zone just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken about how fast them seem to go.

  • “I actually followed one at 40 mph in a 25 mph residential zone just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken about how fast them seem to go.”

    Isn’t that kind of compounding the whole danger thing of having vehicles speed, especially in a residential zone?

  • You could certainly say that, but after having been ignored repeatedly, I really wanted to know if I was imagining things. On at least one I was told the same thing as -a place to stand- that some sort of device was checked. I was also told that the driver had been asked if he were speeding and surprise, he said “no.” Either someone isn’t really following up on speeding complaints, or they are covering up what they find.

  • edit- On at least one *occasion*

  • 1) Everyone MUST STOP for school buses that are loading/unloading. Even responding emergency vehicles MUST STOP. There are NO exceptions to this rule.

    2) If you can SAFELY pull over to the right for an emergency vehicle, then do so. If you cannot SAFELY pull over then DON’T. However, you can slow down and move as far right (still staying on the road) as possible to let the vehicle pass. Emergency vehicle drivers just want to know if you see them and that you will yield when safely possible.

    3) If you happen to witness a school bus driver, driving in an unsafe manner. Report them to the school district.

    4) Did you know that for not using your turn indicator, you can be charged with an infraction, misdemeanor or a felony. Officer’s choice!!

  • I had a bad oh-sh!t moment just last week when I stopped for a full-size school bus that was in the oncoming traffic lane. It was stopped with it’s Stop sign lights on. So, of course, I stopped. Single lane each way, double yellow line separating us. Waiting, waiting, waiting… Then the buss pulled its sign in, lights off, and started very slowly to pull out into the full center of its lane. Once it started to move, I started to move. It continued towards me, slowly, slowly, slowly, as I began to accelerate. As it passed me, I saw what I hadn’t seen before. And that was… ANOTHER, smaller, half-pint, school bus, parked directly behind it and even more off onto the shoulder, with its Stop light and flasher lights still on! ACK! Thankfully, there were no kids, and the kids were teens/tweens, hopefully wouldn’t run into the road anyway? Hopefully? (This was on Fontaine Extd in front of Lafayette School & Treatment Center…) It was too late to stop because now I was basically passing the minibus anyway, and I instantly felt awful, and so relieved nothing bad came of it.

    I will never make that mistake again… I will certainly wait the extra minute for the bus I see to pass me, so I can have the opportunity to insure there’s not another bus behind it.

    In my opinion, they should have a policy that the smaller bus parks in FRONT of the big bus in front of school, for this reason, but whatever. I’m not the director.

    I totally respect this rule and always observe it – except for this time when I totally blew it by mistake. Oops. Glad nothing bad came of it.

    Good rule, good law, enforce it to the hilt. I’m glad I didn’t get a ticket (or wind up “rotting in jail, yikes!”) but I did deserve one because I wasn’t being cautious and observant enough. Lesson learned.

  • Just to balance out some of the speeding bus complaints, there’s a bus driver on Rt20 that pulls over every morning at the old Wayne’s Country store to let traffic by. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate the courtesy.

  • ChrEliz, if this was in front of the school, loading kids before heading out, I think you might consider mentioning it to the school, because that does sound like an unsafe situation. It’s pretty unexpected to encounter a mini-bus tucked away behind a full-size bus; people might be trained to stop for a bus that they can see, but it’s hard to train them to wait just in case there is a bus they cannot see!

    I wish people would drive as if they understood that a driving a car is a lot like waving a loaded gun around. The thing is dangerous. Do everything you can to minimize the risk you pose to other people. All those pesky laws about turn signals and school buses and cell phones, all the penalties for “mistakes” — it’s all about trying to cut down on the number of drivers who kill other people or themselves.

  • Cecil, you are right, I should contact the school. I will do that. I agree with your statement about how important it is to minimize the risk you pose to other people (and yourself). It’s also nice just to drive in a friendly way in general. Most of the time I try to adopt that attitude that when I’m on the road, it’s my best opportunity to surprise and exceed the expectations of strangers that day. I let you merge when traffic is crawling. I get over to the left lane and let you onto the Bypass when you’re waiting in the entrance ramp. I slow down and wave you (and the car or two behind you) to cross Park Street and get on the Bypass when you’re on the bridge on Park trying to catch a break. I don’t yield the right of way inappropriately at a four-way stop sign (that can CAUSE an accident!) but I do give a stranger a break when we’re out on the road. I love it when other people do the same for me. I wish more people would. Maybe we can start a movement! Everyone drive like it’s your best friend’s teenage child who is behind the wheel of every other vehicle on the road; give ’em a break, be friendly, and be encouraging. Wouldn’t that be nice?

  • ChrELiz, I am all for being friendly, but often drivers around here are friendly to the driver in front of them by screwing the drivers behind them. For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

    At 4-way stops, for example, instead of waving ahead the driver to your left who got there after you, just take your turn as the law prescribes, and let things flow in an orderly manner. Those behind you will thank you.

    For the poorly designed bypass on-ramps, get in the left lane as long as you’re not slowing down traffic behind you.

    And people getting onto the bypass, for God’s sake: start looking for your opening a few seconds before you slam on your brakes at the yield sign. It’s yield, not stop.

  • When a driver in front of me gives someone ahead of him a break (in an appropriate manner, of course, which excludes yielding right-of-way at a 4-way), I try not to view that action as “screwing” me, especially if all it’s doing is making me wait a few seconds longer.

  • @Cecil: Can you get a Amen? I say can you get a Amen?

    Damn right. AMEN!!!!!

    ***
    I wish people would drive as if they understood that a driving a car is a lot like waving a loaded gun around. The thing is dangerous. Do everything you can to minimize the risk you pose to other people. All those pesky laws about turn signals and school buses and cell phones, all the penalties for “mistakes” — it’s all about trying to cut down on the number of drivers who kill other people or themselves.

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