§ 40-6-163. Overtaking and passing school bus
If you are meeting or overtaking a stopped school bus, from either direction, any school you must stop before reaching such school bus when its signs/lights are deployed. You may not proceed until the school bus resumes motion OR the signals are no longer deployed.
You need not stop if:
1) You are on a “different roadway” or
2) You are on a “controlled-access highway” when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway , but where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway
Confused? You’re not alone. The code section does not define these terms and the appellate courts haven’t helped either. The Attorney General’s Office authored an opinion letter back in 1989 that reads:
“On a highway, where the traffic lanes are separated only by a flush median or a left-turn lane, vehicles from either direction must stop for a stopped school bus displaying its visual stop signals.”
By inference, you can assume that this means if traffic lanes are separated by something MORE THAN just a flush median or a left-turn lane, you do not have to stop. But, keep in mind this is just an AG Opinion letter. It is not law.
Better to be safe than sorry and stop.
There are four bits of good news though.
1) If law enforcement does not actually see the act committed, the statute can only be enforced via video evidence.
2) If the law is enforced this way, it becomes civil offense. This means no points will be assessed to your license.
3) Because it’s a civil offense, failing to show up for court (to dispute the offense) will not result in a bench warrant. You get two additional notices and then simply waive the right to contest the offense.
4) The maximum fine is only $300 for the first offense.
Disputing the charge
If you’re charged with this via video evidence, the burden of proof is the civil burden. Meaning that you don’t get the same “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard one usually does in criminal cases. As such, it’s much easier to “convict” you.
The video, along with proof you were the owner of the vehicle at the time, is prima facie evidence that you committed the act. You can only rebut that evidence with the following:
1) You must testify under oath in open court (or submits to the court a sworn notarized statement) that you were not the operator of the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation and you must identify who was; or
2) Presents to the court a certified copy of a police report showing that the vehicle had been reported to the police as stolen prior to the time of the alleged violation.
Or, of course, you can argue that what you did was not a violation of the statute.
For additional questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 770-729-4809.
- Jason Carnell