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  1. #1
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    Default Passing a School Bus on a Highway Offramp

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: TX

    I received a citation under TX 545.066 for passing a stopped school bus with the stop sign extended. However, at the time I had just exited a highway and my off ramp had just merged with the access road, but the dividing line was still solid white between the ramp and the rest of the road, so I wasn't sure whether to stop.

    I understand that there was no median/barrier between my lane and that of the bus, but a highway off ramp is a dangerous place to stop; the traffic moves at 50-60 MPH at the point of the exit, and I believe that stopping here would pose a danger of getting rear-ended. I was not alone; I saw multiple other cars before and behind me make the same judgement, and also drove past the stopped bus. (Unfortunately, the photos mailed to me are not sufficient to show this.) In addition, there is no reasonable expectation that any child would cross this street toward the highway; it is completely impassible on foot.

    Should I request a hearing to protest? And in general, is it important to have a hearing in person rather than by mail?

    Thank you for your consideration!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    Assuming this is the code section you were cited for:

    Sec. 545.066. PASSING A SCHOOL BUS; OFFENSE.

    (a) An operator on a highway, when approaching from either direction a school bus stopped on the highway to receive or discharge a student:

    (1) shall stop before reaching the school bus when the bus is operating a visual signal as required by Section 547.701; and

    (2) may not proceed until:

    (A) the school bus resumes motion;

    (B) the operator is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or

    (C) the visual signal is no longer actuated.

    (b) An operator on a highway having separate roadways is not required to stop:

    (1) for a school bus that is on a different roadway; or

    (2) if on a controlled-access highway, for a school bus that is stopped:

    (A) in a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to the highway; and

    (B) where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.

    (c) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $200 or more than $1,000, except that the offense is:

    (1) a Class A misdemeanor if the person causes serious bodily injury to another; or

    (2) a state jail felony if the person has been previously convicted under Subdivision (1).

    (d) The court may order that the driver's license of a person convicted of a second or subsequent offense under this section be suspended for not longer than six months beginning on the date of conviction. In this subsection, "driver's license" has the meaning assigned by Chapter 521.

    (e) If a person does not pay the previously assessed fine or costs on a conviction under this section, or is determined by the court to have insufficient resources or income to pay a fine or costs on a conviction under this section, the court may order the person to perform community service. The court shall set the number of hours of service under this subsection.

    (f) For the purposes of this section:

    (1) a highway is considered to have separate roadways only if the highway has roadways separated by an intervening space on which operation of vehicles is not permitted, a physical barrier, or a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic; and

    (2) a highway is not considered to have separate roadways if the highway has roadways separated only by a left turn lane.


    Quote Quoting txbrent
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    However, at the time I had just exited a highway and my off ramp had just merged with the access road, but the dividing line was still solid white between the ramp and the rest of the road, so I wasn't sure whether to stop.
    It is my understanding that while one is discouraged from crossing a white solid line, doing so is not a violation. Moreover, the code section refers to "an intervening space on which operation of vehicles is not permitted, a physical barrier, or a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic" and a white line is not likely to fit the qualifier as being a "physical barrier or a section thereof that is constructed to impede vehicular traffic". So it appears to me that you should have stopped.

    Quote Quoting txbrent
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    I understand that there was no median/barrier between my lane and that of the bus, but a highway off ramp is a dangerous place to stop; the traffic moves at 50-60 MPH at the point of the exit, and I believe that stopping here would pose a danger of getting rear-ended.
    You're free to try that as a defense. I'm not quite certain it will save the day. It might depend on the circumstances and how soon off the main highway a driver is able to see the bus in its stopped position. More often than not, highway off ramps are designed in such a way to allow a driver to reduce their speed to what is posted on the street/roadway they are connecting to. You did not share with us what the speed limit on this highway is or what the speed limit on the connecting roadway, but it would be safe to assume that the court can establish what those speed limits are, and if 50 to 60 mph is not accurate, I would adjust my claim accordingly.

    Quote Quoting txbrent
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    I was not alone; I saw multiple other cars before and behind me make the same judgement, and also drove past the stopped bus. (Unfortunately, the photos mailed to me are not sufficient to show this.)
    Unfortunately, others violating the same law or a different law is not a defense that you can raise and expect to succeed with.

    Quote Quoting txbrent
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    In addition, there is no reasonable expectation that any child would cross this street toward the highway; it is completely impassible on foot.
    A reasonable expectation is that drivers will exercise due care and would conform to the requirement to stop and if they did, then there would be no danger to cross at that particular location. So again, this is the reason for this particular regulation and that is to allow safe passage to those children who would otherwise be endangered by traffic if it were to not stop.

    Conversely, and if it is in fact illegal to cross at that location, this could work as an affirmative defense in that you can go to court, present evidence showing that it is in fact illegal to cross at that particular location and therefore there is no basis or need for the bus to enforce such provision so as to force motorists to stop when in fact no one is allowed to cross.

    This, seems to be your only glimmer of hope, otherwise, you will likely be found guilty and it might be in your best interest to try and negotiate some sort of plea with the prosecuting attorney if he/she is willing to offer one.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    That Guy,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my request. I would like to ask about the last point you made -- is it potentially illegal to cross at this location? I certainly see no valid reason for children exiting a school bus to cross this street! But I can't find any indication that it would be illegal.

    I pulled up the Google Street View for the spot of the citation. Let me know if you have trouble accessing it:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=richar...3,,0,4.39&z=17

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    Quote Quoting txbrent
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    That Guy,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my request. I would like to ask about the last point you made -- is it potentially illegal to cross at this location? I certainly see no valid reason for children exiting a school bus to cross this street! But I can't find any indication that it would be illegal.

    I pulled up the Google Street View for the spot of the citation. Let me know if you have trouble accessing it:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=richar...3,,0,4.39&z=17

    Thanks!
    While I can see no need for anyone -let alone a child- to have to cross at that point, I am unable to see any reason why it would be unlawful to do so. The exemption under the code states that there must be a prohibition to crossing at the point where the alleged violation occurred.

    With all that said, the choice is ultimately up to the judge hearing your case. And if this is the only defense you are able to come forth with, then by all means, present it and see what happens. Good luck!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    If you look at the point in your map, almost to the bridge, just past the sewer opening, you will see where the lanes become one solid white line. It would be my contention in court if the bus where stopped at any point prior to the line becoming a single line, the below exclusion applies.




    (b) An operator on a highway having separate roadways is not required to stop:

    (1) for a school bus that is on a different roadway; or

    (2) if on a controlled-access highway, for a school bus that is stopped:

    (A) in a loading zone that is a part of or adjacent to the highway; and

    (B) where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    I also received a citation in the mail for passing a stopped bus at this intersection. The first thing that came to mind is "Why is a bus parking there?" It just doesn't seem safe for the students or the motorists that are expected to stop behind the bus. I talked with a co-worker that used to be a school bus driver in California, and he said that he would not have been allowed to use that intersection as a loading zone. It's far too dangerous. If I were to prove that the bus driver was in-the-wrong for parking there, would it likely be grounds for dismissal of this citation?

    On the subject of prohibiting pedestrians from crossing the highway, there are signs at the offramp and service road that prohibit motorists from crossing the double-white lines. I know that crossing these lines is an offense because I have know people to receive citations for doing it. Wouldn't it stand to reason that a pedestrian would also be prohibited from crossing? I believe that pedestrians must follow the same traffic signs as motorists (i.e. they must stop at stop signs, yield at yellow lights, and cross streets only at intersections).

    Lastly, it states that motorists that are driving on a "different roadway" are not required to stop. Could it be argued that because I had not yet merged onto the service road, that I was in fact on a different roadway? I think maybe this sub-section is clarifying that motorists on intersecting roadways are not required to stop. I don't think the law takes into account merging roadways.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    Quote Quoting txjoe
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    I also received a citation in the mail for passing a stopped bus at this intersection. The first thing that came to mind is "Why is a bus parking there?" It just doesn't seem safe for the students or the motorists that are expected to stop behind the bus. I talked with a co-worker that used to be a school bus driver in California, and he said that he would not have been allowed to use that intersection as a loading zone. It's far too dangerous. If I were to prove that the bus driver was in-the-wrong for parking there, would it likely be grounds for dismissal of this citation?
    It isn't likely that the bus driver gets to randomly choose where to stop and dump off a bunch of school children. there are preset pick up spots that buses stop at on a daily basis during the school year and so its going to be extremely difficult for you to convince the court that "the driver was in the wrong". Even if he was "in the wrong" that still does not relieve you from the duty to stop upon approach towards a bus with the stop arm extended.

    Quote Quoting txjoe
    View Post
    On the subject of prohibiting pedestrians from crossing the highway, there are signs at the offramp and service road that prohibit motorists from crossing the double-white lines. I know that crossing these lines is an offense because I have know people to receive citations for doing it. Wouldn't it stand to reason that a pedestrian would also be prohibited from crossing? I believe that pedestrians must follow the same traffic signs as motorists (i.e. they must stop at stop signs, yield at yellow lights, and cross streets only at intersections).
    First, you were no longer on an offramp when you passed the bus. And no, the laws that apply to drivers do not apply to pedestrians, nor are pedestrians obligated to comply with the same signs as drivers, but even if they did, which signs are you talking about that prohibit crossing? I cannot find any!

    Quote Quoting txjoe
    View Post
    Lastly, it states that motorists that are driving on a "different roadway" are not required to stop. Could it be argued that because I had not yet merged onto the service road, that I was in fact on a different roadway? I think maybe this sub-section is clarifying that motorists on intersecting roadways are not required to stop. I don't think the law takes into account merging roadways.
    It appears you are the only one who is using the terms "intersections", "intersecting" and "merging"... I don't see any of those terms in the statute.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Highway Offramp

    Thank you for the reply, That Guy.

    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    First, you were no longer on an offramp when you passed the bus. And no, the laws that apply to drivers do not apply to pedestrians, nor are pedestrians obligated to comply with the same signs as drivers, but even if they did, which signs are you talking about that prohibit crossing? I cannot find any!
    After reviewing the OP's google map location again, I believe I may have been photographed one exit before this. That service road has two merging off-ramps, one from the highway and another from the controlled HOV lane. Based on the photographs I was sent, the bus was parked here when I passed: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=midpa...,,0,31.45&z=19

    I believe that I was still on the offramp when the bus stopped. Parallel to the parked bus, there are double-white lines with perpendicular white lines within.

    The signs that I am referring to are about 100 feet back: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=midpa...,,0,24.33&z=19

    That perspective also shows the concrete barrier, raised median, and double-white lines ahead. The bus was parked after the barrier and the raised median, but not after the double-white lines.

    Quote Quoting That Guy
    View Post
    It appears you are the only one who is using the terms "intersections", "intersecting" and "merging"... I don't see any of those terms in the statute.
    Apologies, the section of the code I was referring to is this:

    (b) An operator on a highway having separate roadways is not required to stop:

    (1) for a school bus that is on a different roadway;

    "Different Roadway" is the part that I am unclear on. Some websites that I have visited claim that this means an intersecting roadway. But I can find nothing in any of the Texas highway codes that specifies what is to be considered a "different roadway".

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus on a Highway Offramp

    Look at the well worn foot marks in the grass, then pan left to see the single white line. You are guilty, sorry.

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