The Spike in Illegal School Bus Passing: Is Distracted Driving to Blame?

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Economics may play a larger role in the sudden rise in illegal school bus passing. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Economics may play a larger role than distracted driving in the sudden rise in illegal school bus passing. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Recent reports have highlighted the staggering number of instances in which drivers pass school buses that are stopped with signs out and red lights flashing. One estimate claimed more than 30,000 drivers illegally pass a school bus each day. Moreover, this is a trend that seems to be increasing.

Many law enforcement agencies are blaming distracted driving for the surge in illegal bus passing, but is that assertion backed up by data? Figures from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee show that tickets for texting while driving have increased dramatically since 2011, from 9,015 to 84,720 in 2015. However, texting isn’t the only form of distracted driving. Tickets for cellphone violations (meaning failure to use a hands-free device while driving) have dropped by 47% from nearly 250,000 in 2011 to just over 132,000 in 2015. Overall, the number of distracted driving tickets has fallen by 16%.

In spite of this decrease, it seems distracted driving has become the go-to scapegoat for negative driving trends. In October 2016, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data showing a 10% jump in traffic fatalities, many news organizations were quick to blame distracted driving. According to the Washington Post, however, the NHTSA said the strengthening economy, low cost of fuel, and other human error were more at fault. The same article also quoted the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as saying there’s “no hard evidence so far to tie the dramatic increase in crashes” to distracted driving.

Given that distracted driving cases are generally on the decline, it makes more sense to blame a stronger economy — which we already know correlates to more traffic accidents — for the rise in illegal bus passing. 

Both illegally passing a school bus and distracted driving can carry serious consequences. A conviction for illegally passing a school bus carries a fine of up to $400 plus five points for a first offense, as well as up to 30 days in jail. A second conviction within three years brings the consequences up to a $750 fine and 180 days in jail. Drivers found guilty of a third offense will face a fine of $1,00 as well as 180 days in jail and a mandatory revoked license.

Distracted driving — whether for talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device or for any other use of an electronic device while driving — can cost around $150 and carry 5 points on your license for a first offense. A second offense within 18 months will cost $200, and a third within 18 months will cost $400.

If you or a loved one were ticketed for passing a stopped school bus, distracted driving, or for any other traffic violation in New York, you need a skilled attorney to fight the charge and avoid the consequences. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law are experienced traffic ticket attorneys with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.

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This post was written by Adam H. Rosenblum Esq.

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