An Arlington County police crackdown on motorists who pass stopped school buses, coupled with enforcement of a new law making it easier to bring violators to court, has helped curb the problem, according to police, bus drivers and PTA representatives.
But the schools' chief of transportation said police need to enforce the law even more vigorously.
In January, police officers in unmarked and marked cars followed a dozen school buses on their routes for one week and issued tickets to 10 motorists who passed the buses, charging them with reckless driving.
Sgt. Tom Panther said that while the number of ticketed drivers may seem small, the effort helped make motorists aware of the rule.
The new law permits civil action against persons suspected of passing a stopped school bus -- a less complicated procedure than criminal prosecution on reckless driving charges. Residents are encouraged to report license numbers of vehicles they see passing buses. The vehicles' owners are then traced through the Department of Motor Vehicles and issued citations, which carry a $50 fine plus $20 court costs.
Since the law went into effect last July, police say, they have received 72 reports that resulted in 22 citations.
Thomas A. Newman Jr., who supervises the 200 trips made by Arlington school bus drivers each day, said two bus stops were moved this year from heavily traveled streets to quieter locations. He said those changes, and the police department's efforts, have made a difference. "It has been a step in the right direction, and we need more of it," he said.