Back to school time is an important event for our entire community, and a busy time for us all.
During this busy time, please be extra cautious in traffic. Be mindful of our school traffic zones especially during the morning hours and early afternoons. Slow down and increase your stopping distances.
School buses are back on the road. Be aware of school bus routes in your neighborhood and throughout your daily travel. Leave plenty of time and space for buses. With school traffic, anticipate delays in your travel and leave early so you’re not in a rush. And, when approaching a school zone or school bus on the road, be prepared to stop for bus and pedestrian traffic. In Alabama it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus.
Here are some reminders for drivers about what you can or cannot do when a school bus drops off children:
1) You must come to a complete stop before you reach the school bus if it has visual stop signals activated.
This may sound like common sense, but this is the law when a driver is on a public road, school property or even a private road.
2) After stopping, there are three ways to know when you can drive again.
Alabama law says a driver can once again proceed when a school bus resumes motion, visual stop signs are no longer actuated or when the driver signals you to proceed.
3) You don't have to stop if you are on the other side of some divided highways.
Drivers on divided highways with four or more lanes do not have to stop if the school bus traveling on the other side of the highway has its stop signals activated. If the school bus is stopped in a loading zone that's a part of or adjacent to a divided four-lane highway, drivers do not have to stop as long as it is in an area where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.
4) You can face charges even if you own the vehicle, but you weren't driving it during the violation.
If an officer witnesses a vehicle diver violating the law, and the identity of the driver is not apparent, it is inferred the vehicle's owner committed the violation. If there is more than one owner of a vehicle, only one of the owners can be convicted.
5) Your license will be suspended if you are a repeat offender.
A driver's first offense results in a fine of no less than $150 and no more than $300, but once you become a repeat offender, you could eventually lose your driver license. The driver will have his or her license suspended for 30 days on a second offense, 60 days on a third offense and one year on a fourth sentence.
6) You may have plenty of community service hours to fulfill if you are a repeat offender.
Two-time convicted offenders shall complete at least 100 hours of community service, while three-time offenders must complete 200 hours.
7) You may face felony charges on a fourth offense.
Alabama law says a fourth conviction is a Class C felony, and you will face a fine of $1,000 to $3,000 along with the license suspension.
I want to thank all of you who help make our education system an integral, positive force in our community. Our children are counting on us – let’s work together to make “back to school” a rewarding, fun, and safe time for all Cherokee County residents.
Also, please know that we will have deputies in and out of each school next week to make our students and faculty safer. We are continuing to work toward an agreement with the Superintendent of Education, the Board of Education, and the County Commission to provide a full-time SRO program for our schools.