Police targeting drivers passing school buses

Posted Feb. 02, 2010, at 11:50 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Police Department’s recently reactivated special enforcement team, which in past weeks has taken on such issues as underage liquor sales and recovering stolen goods from pawnshops, has turned its sights on drivers illegally passing school buses.

According to Sgt. Paul Edwards, city police officers have been monitoring and ticketing motorists who violate state laws concerning passing school buses that have stopped with red lights flashing to discharge or pick up schoolchildren.

The citywide effort, which has been conducted intermittently over the past three weeks, so far has resulted in tickets for three violators, Edwards said in a news release issued Tuesday. He said officers with the special enforcement team are focusing most of their attention on areas with four-lane roadways because most violations occur there.

According to state law, it is illegal to pass a school bus stopped in any lane of traffic with red lights flashing where there are one or more lanes of traffic. The exception is for separated roadways, or those with lanes divided by curbing or other physical barriers.

Motorists may not proceed until the red lights go off and the bus resumes motion or until the bus driver signals that it is OK to proceed.

Edwards said that members of the team have been riding on school buses and communicating violations they have seen to police in cruisers. He said team members would continue to monitor the problem and urge motorists to obey school bus laws.

The criminal violation carries a fine of at least $250 for a first offense and a mandatory 30-day driver’s license suspension for a second offense occurring within three years of the first offense.

The laws do not apply to other kinds of buses, including the region’s network of BAT buses, Sgt. Jim Buckley said Tuesday.

“You can go around those as long as it’s safe to do so,” he said.

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