School’s in session, drivers need to be careful

THE END OF SUMMER is also a beginning – the beginning of a new school year.

The Wisconsin State Patrol is reminding everyone that, as school has started, students are not the only ones who need to recall what they learned just a few months ago. Drivers also need to remember some important lessons.

“Drivers must be cautious when approaching students who are walking or riding bikes. They also will need to be careful around school buses that are loading or unloading passengers,” said Capt. Tony Burrell of the Wisconsin State Patrol Northeast Region-Fond du Lac Post.

Stop for school buses

Wisconsin law requires drivers to stop a minimum of 20 feet from a stopped school bus with its red warning lights flashing. Drivers must stop whether the bus is on their side of road, on the opposite side of the road, or at an intersection they are approaching. However, drivers are not required to stop for a school bus if they are traveling in the opposite direction on the other side of a divided roadway separated by a median or other physical barrier.

When they are passed illegally, school bus drivers are authorized to report the violator to a law enforcement agency and a citation may be issued. The owner of the vehicle, who might not be the offending driver, will then be responsible for paying the citation.

A citation for failure to stop for a school bus costs $326.50 with four demerit points. If reported by a school bus driver, the vehicle owner’s liability for the illegal passing of a bus costs $326.50 with no demerit points.

Students walking to school

State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians:

• Who have started crossing an intersection or crosswalk on a walk signal or on a green light if there’s no walk signal.

• Who are crossing the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where there are no traffic lights or control signals.

• When a vehicle is crossing a sidewalk or entering an alley or driveway.

In addition, drivers may not legally overtake and pass any vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians at an intersection or crosswalk.

Drivers who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are legally crossing roadways may be issued citations that cost approximately $175 to $326 (depending on the type of violation) along with four demerit points on their license. The cost of the citation increases if it’s the second violation within one year. A citation for passing a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians costs $326.50 with three demerit points.

Students biking to school

When drivers are passing bicycles traveling in the same direction, they must leave a safe distance of no less than three feet of clearance and must maintain that clearance until they have safely passed the bicycle.

A violation of the state law that requires drivers to overtake and pass bicyclists safely costs a total of $200.50 with three demerit points. The cost for a second violation within four years increases to $263.50 with three points.

Burrell says, “As another school year begins, we are asking drivers to be patient, cautious and attentive whenever they are near students who are walking, biking or riding a bus.”


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