Consequences of Passing a School Bus in Gwinnett County

Some of the most frustrating hours spent on the road are those shared with stop-and-go traffic caused by local school buses. The constant halts can be frazzling, as can be the increased attentiveness required when driving nearby. Under Georgia traffic law, passing a stopped school bus while its stop sign (“stop-arm”) is out constitutes a serious misdemeanor traffic offense. If cited by a law enforcement official, unlawful passing of a school bus can result in a fine up to $1,000, a mandatory court appearance, and six points added to a driver’s license.

When there are no police visible, however, many drivers are tempted to pass a stopped bus and shave a few minutes off of their commute. If you are driving in Gwinnett County, however, police officers aren’t the only eyes you need to watch out for:  it’s the buses themselves.

January 2016 marks one year since Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) joined nearby school districts in attaching cameras to its school buses in hopes of catching drivers who illegally pass school buses stopped for pedestrians. Local lawmakers enacted the Gwinnett County School Bus Stop-Arm Enforcement Program to deter drivers from passing stopped school buses and endangering the lives of children who enter and exit the buses. Cameras mounted on the buses provide hi-resolution still images, video recording, and information detailing the date, time, and location of each incident.

How do GCPS stop-arm cameras work?

GCPS has contracted with Redflex Traffic Systems to install the cameras, monitor the surveillance, and distribute citation information to offenders. Cameras mounted on the bus begin recording once the yellow lights on a stopping bus stop flashing. If a person runs the stop-arm camera, the footage is immediately downloaded by RedFlex, where employees verify that the image is clear and license number is legible. If so, the file is sent directly to GCPS police, who evaluate the visual. If it meets enforcement criteria, the file is sent back to RedFlex, who sends out the citation with the court date. The alleged offender has the option to pay the fine or contest it in Recorders Court.

Will points be added to my license?

No-shows and non-payers of citations are sent a second notice. Failure to pay after a second notice has been issued will ultimately result in the fine being turned over to a debt collection agency.  Contrary to popular belief, failure to pay is never reported to local law enforcement – meaning the citation never results in points on a license, additional fines, or reporting to your insurance company.

Should I hire a lawyer to defend me?

If you believe you have received a citation from GCPS in error, you are entitled to contest it at a civil hearing on the date scheduled on your citation. It is important to note, however, that it is no more than a civil fine. With fines ranging from $300 for a first-offense to $1,000 for three or more offenses in five years, hiring an attorney to defend you may cause a deeper dent in your pocket than the citation. Additionally, it is less likely that a judge will be sympathetic at a civil hearing. However, if you believe you have wrongfully received a citation, you may contact your local law enforcement for advice.

When is it illegal to pass a school bus in Georgia?

With the heightened risk of punishment, many Gwinnett County citizens are asking, “What does it mean to illegally pass a school bus?” Georgia traffic law requires drivers to halt for a school bus stopped for passengers under the following conditions:

  • When on a two-lane roadway, drivers from both directions must stop.
  • When on a two-lane roadway with a center turning lane, drivers from both directions must stop.
  • When on a four-lane roadway without a median separation, drivers from both directions must stop.
  • When a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane, drivers from both directions must stop.
  • When on a divided highway of four lanes or more and median separation, only drivers following the school bus must stop.

As a rule of thumb, if there isn’t a median separating you and the bus, stop. It can save you more than two extra minutes, some money, and points on your license: It could save the life of a child.

Contact –

If you have a received a traffic citation for Unlawfully Passing a School Bus, contact one of our Gwinnett traffic lawyers for a free consultation with one of our expert Traffic Defense Attorneys.