Stopping behind school buses is a state law some seem to be flouting with more frequency

Dylan Anderson
Steamboat Pilot & Today

For many, the days of riding the school bus have long passed, but watching students through the back windows of a bus that is stopped at a stop sign can bring back memories.

Others are not so reminiscent.

Instead, school bus drivers report some motorists are just driving on by, ignoring the foldout stop sign, the students getting on or off the bus and the state law that requires drivers to stop at least 20 feet back.

“It’s always been a thing where we’ll be doing a student stop with the stop sign out and all the lights on, and people will drive through,” said Casey Ungs, transportation manager for the Steamboat Springs School District. “The last two weeks, we have had like 15 instances of that occurring, which seems to be up dramatically.”

This isn’t a new problem, and it isn’t just a Steamboat one either. Earlier this week, parents in Littleton complained about drivers coasting past stopped buses and what they saw as a lack of a police response. But Ungs said he believes drivers are increasingly distracted, and some people seem simply oblivious to the school bus and the generally younger students around it.

“Vehicles are required to stop 20 feet at minimum prior to that stop sign,” Ungs said. “We’re just having people cruise right through it, either on their phone or just completely distracted.”

Ungs said some people even slow down around the bus, inching forward to take a look around before passing by illegally — signaling they know they are supposed to stop but are choosing to flout the law.

It is happening all over the city, Ungs said, but one specific problem area is near Walton Creek Road, Whistler Road and Chinook Lane — all near the base of Steamboat Resort, where housing is dense and traffic can be tighter when buses are running. Areas of Old Town Steamboat can be problematic, too, especially near the district offices on Pine Street.

“We are actively pursuing citations in conjunction with the (Steamboat Springs) Police Department and the (Routt County) Sheriff’s (Office),” Ungs said. “One time a year is too many times for this to happen, and it’s happening multiple times in a week.”

Ungs said he has worked with Steamboat Officer Brian Arthur, providing him with video evidence of people blowing through these stops. Ungs said cameras on the bus start recording 30 seconds before the stop arm comes out and 30 seconds after, and they are great for catching license plates.

Failing to stop for a school bus signal is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense in Colorado, punishable by a fine of between $150 and $300 and/or imprisonment for between 10 and 90 days. A second offense within five years could result in a larger fine and longer jail time.

Between 600 and 700 students in the district arrive via the bus every morning, with much of that concentrated among younger students, as Ungs said few high school students ride the bus.

“The most at-risk population for crossing the street is who’s riding the bus,” Ungs said. “My goal is to make it so that we’re not giving citations, because people just understand that’s the safe way to do things.”

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