Blair, NE (KPTM) – If you see a school bus with red lights flashing you have to stop. This law has been in place for years, but now drivers in Nebraska will get more expensive fines if they don't follow it.
The city of Blair worked closely with state lawmakers to make this happen.
It's a process so routine drivers tend to forget about safety as it happens—kids getting on and off the school bus.
"They come up behind me and I'm getting ready to put my ambers on and they'll do everything to get around me," says Pauline Swaney who drives a school bus. "What does it take, one minute for me to unload a kid?"
Pauline Swaney sees cars pass her bus as students get on and off all the time.
She says sometimes they'll slow down, but won't completely stop. Other times they tailgate her.
She worries this puts passengers in danger.
"It'd hurt the kids in the bus," says Swaney. "I could get pushed up towards the window too and–I just wish they'd slow down."
"It's time that we make people aware that when these buses stop we're unloading tomorrow's future. We've got to get them off safely—in and out," says Blair Community Schools director of transportation Chuck Hall.
A new state law went into affect this school year.
In the past, drivers cited for failing to stop when passengers load and unload school buses had to pay $100. They also lost one point on their driving record.
The cost is now $500, three points off and a Class 4 misdemeanor.
The city of Blair is taking this punishment even further.
"Buses give me the location, the date, the time, the vehicle description, license plate number, the number of occupants and I follow up on that," says Deputy Fred Carritt with Washington County Sheriff's Office.
"If I can contact them on the phone and they admit to going through the light, the county attorney has told me that we will file a report on them and they will be noticed into court."
They poured a lot of money into warning lights—adding flashing yellow lights to the top of the buses and rapid red flashing lights on the sides. If drivers fail to stop or slow down—that's when they get fined.
Blair Community Schools have 27 buses.
About 900 students grades K-12 are transported daily.
It takes 20-30 minutes, twice a day to drop all of them off.
During that time, Swaney says her job could be a lot less stressful if drivers stayed patient.
"I'm never in a hurry. The most important thing is to make sure kids get off the bus safely."
But even if they don't, she feels no pressure to accommodate them.
Washing County Sheriff's Office has given two drivers tickets since the new law started.
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