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State attorney general weighs in on new law about when to stop for school buses
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A student climbs aboard a school bus Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at Fair Street International School. - photo by Scott Rogers

A change in state law this year that prompted confusion about when and whether motorists are required to stop when traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus loading or unloading students has prompted the state’s attorney general to weigh in.

In the “unofficial opinion” issued on Monday, Aug. 20, the Office of Attorney General Chris Carr stated, “… I conclude that Georgia law does not require a vehicle traveling on a three or five lane road divided by a center turn lane to stop for a school bus that is stopped on the opposite side of the road with its visual signals engaged.”

As previously reported in The Times, transportation directors across the state, including those working for Hall County Schools and Gainesville City Schools, expressed concern and worry about the danger the change in state law might present.

Previously, motorists traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus along a four-lane roadway with a median (grass, concrete, etc.) were not required to stop. But that was the only exception.  

“In my role as leader of the Georgia Department of Education, I maintain my position that this change in law does not reflect best practices to ensure student safety, and could endanger Georgia’s kids as they travel to and from school,” state school Superintendent Richard Woods said in a press release responding to the attorney general’s opinion. “More than ever, students need to be reminded they should never cross more than two lanes of traffic, including the lane occupied by the bus, at a school bus stop. In the upcoming legislative session, I will urge our state lawmakers to reverse this change. We cannot put our students’ safety at risk.”

Clay Hobbs, transportation director for Hall County Schools, said the state Department of Education provides a curriculum that individual schools teach to students regarding safe loading and unloading on school buses.

He added that bus drivers are also trained to instruct students on when it’s safe to cross roads during loading and unloading using hand gestures and other commands.

“That is an expectation we have – that all students know and understand the rules about how to approach the bus and exit the bus,” Hobbs said.