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  1. #1
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    Default Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

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

    I was recently ticketed for passing a school bus on Athens Hwy in Loganville, GA, a 5 lane highway with the center being a dedicated turning lane. The images show that the sign had been active for 3.2 seconds (for some reason it also says the bus breaks were not active but the video clearly shows it was for around 8 seconds before the bus began moving again). In the 11 seconds the bus was stopped, I don't believe any children exited the vehicle and there are no schools or homes at that location of the highway.

    I understand the full seriousness of this and take it as such. That being said, I also believe in justice and to me, being given less than 4 seconds to respond to a bus stopping seems unfair.

    At 55 mph and given 3.2 seconds to react and safely stop, do I have a chance? I did the math and some research showing the average stopping distance at 55 mph is 265 feet. The Georgia drivers manual doesn't show 55 mph but specifically states the "estimated emergency stopping distance" for 60 mph is almost 400 feet. If you calculate the mph to feet per second for the first image on my ticket, it works out to 258 feet as the safe stopping distance. I know this is nitpicking but isn't that what the law is about? I also looked over the video very carefully and the "clock" starts when the sign begins to open so at least 1 full second of the 3.2 seconds that I was failing to stop is just the sign slowly coming out.

    What it also comes down to is this, I don't even know if I was driving that day. I lend my truck regularly to several different people, including two law enforcement officers. Not much of an excuse, I know, but the burden SHOULD be theirs (but probably isn't.. funny how they can work around that when needed). I also have the right to face my accuser but know full well that the officer who viewed the video and signed the ticket won't be there.

    This is my first driving offense ever (I've been driving for 24 years) and honestly, with Georgia making all traffic offenses misdemeanors, I really don't want this on my record at all. I have one week to prepare for court and honestly, I refuse to hire a lawyer that will charge me the same, if not more.

    Anyone have some magical thoughts? Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    Take driving school if you are eligible and if it keeps the citation off your record.

    You aren't going to win this.

    I don't know about you, but when I see a school bus stopped anywhere up ahead I slow down to a crawl and I'm ready to stop for the sign and lights if they suddenly come on.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    The fact there is a slowing or stopped school bus IS the notice (though some school buses now have flashing yellow lights). You're not going to win this. Have you used your nolo yet?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    All school buses have long had flashing yellow lights that illuminate before the red lights come on. The yellow lights warn drivers to slow in anticipation of the activation of the red lights and stop sign.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    Hi, nailed.

    So it sounds like you have three potential proposed defenses...
    1) You could not have safely stopped given the short notice you had.
    2) As far as you can tell, there were no passengers exiting the bus.
    3) You may not have even been the driver.

    Let's start with 1)...

    >being given less than 4 seconds to respond to a bus stopping seems unfair.


    Code requires stopping before reaching a bus which is stopped and has the sign out. There is nothing about giving advanced warning. I really dislike this argument, which is effectively that you did not have sufficient distance to stop before passing the school bus. That would mean you were driving too fast for conditions (line of sight, etc.). If there is a stationary object in the middle of the road, you should be able to stop, unless it's a scenario where a tree falls right in front of you or similar.

    If there was a car properly stopped in your lane behind the bus, or a child crossing the road, you need to be able to stop?

    > I did the math
    >Georgia drivers manual doesn't show 55 mph but specifically states the "estimated emergency stopping distance" for 60 mph is almost 400 feet.

    The sources and math are questionable too. Stopping distance is highly dependent upon driver, vehicle, vehicle condition and road conditions. The illustration on page 46 is just an illustration to show that stopping distance increases non-linearly with speed. This is because kinetic energy increases as the square of the velocity, and the brakes can only remove so much energy. Math is like this... Estimated stopping distance at 55 mph = 400 * (55*55)/(60*60) = 336 feet. But the point is moot anyway. It's not a valid defense.

    Regardless, law requires you to stop before reaching the bus, and everyone knows that if you are driving safely and paying attention you can do so...
    http://law.onecle.com/georgia/40/40-6-163.html

    I think you should abandon this first part of proposed defense entirely.

    2) As far as you can tell, there were no passengers exiting the bus.

    So considering defense 3), I presume you came to this conclusion based upon some clear video evidence or something?

    This part of your defense may actually have some merit, but it is based upon a technicality. See
    http://law.onecle.com/georgia/40/40-6-162.html
    May not be easy to argue though, as it does not completely absolve you from passing a stopped school bus. Maybe both you and the school bus driver should both get tickets, ha. Just kidding, but I don't know if the court will accept an argument that the bus should not have been displaying its sign if it was not receiving or discharging children, and I would like to know what others think (if they have read this far).

    3) You may not have even been the driver.

    >I don't even know if I was driving that day.
    >the officer who viewed the video and signed the ticket won't be there.

    I suppose you could ask your accuser to prove that you were driving the car that day and note that you loan the car out frequently, if that is all truthful (as in, you do not remember this event). Ooops, no accuser? Sounds like a valid defense to me, if you are credible. I'd ask for dismissal.

    PS: Great username, ha.

    Regards,
    Jim

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    Quote Quoting jim_hoerner
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    2) As far as you can tell, there were no passengers exiting the bus.

    So considering defense 3), I presume you came to this conclusion based upon some clear video evidence or something?

    This part of your defense may actually have some merit, but it is based upon a technicality. See
    http://law.onecle.com/georgia/40/40-6-162.html
    May not be easy to argue though, as it does not completely absolve you from passing a stopped school bus. Maybe both you and the school bus driver should both get tickets, ha. Just kidding, but I don't know if the court will accept an argument that the bus should not have been displaying its sign if it was not receiving or discharging children, and I would like to know what others think (if they have read this far).
    I don't think that's a valid defense. I don't know how much of the scene is shown on the video or the exact location (maybe nailed could give us the exact location) or time of day, but it's possible that a child was going to get off the bus but didn't or was going to get on the bus but didn't. Since one must stop for the sign and lights, one won't know if anybody actually gets on or off the bus until one stops. Besides, the statute doesn't say you don't have to stop if you don't see anybody getting on or off the bus. I think that defense goes out the window.

    Quote Quoting jim_hoerner
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    3) You may not have even been the driver.

    >I don't even know if I was driving that day.
    >the officer who viewed the video and signed the ticket won't be there.

    I suppose you could ask your accuser to prove that you were driving the car that day and note that you loan the car out frequently, if that is all truthful (as in, you do not remember this event). Ooops, no accuser? Sounds like a valid defense to me, if you are credible. I'd ask for dismissal.
    I think that conversation would go something like this:

    Defendant: I wasn't driving the car that day.
    Judge: Who was?
    Defendant: I don't want to incriminate anybody.
    Judge: Well, where are your witnesses that you were somewhere else.
    Defendant: I have their statements.
    Judge: Sorry, statements are inadmissable if they aren't here to testify. Anything else?
    Defendant: Yes, I'd like to question the officer and the bus driver who are accusing me.
    Judge: OK, where are they?
    Defendant: Uh, well, they aren't here.
    Judge: Didn't you subpoena them?
    Defendant: Uh, no.
    Judge: Well, that's how you get people into court to testify.
    Defendant: I didn't know.
    Judge: Ignorance of the procedure is no excuse. Anything else?
    Defendant (by now rolled up into a little ball): No, your honor.
    Judge: Guilty

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    Judge: Ignorance of the procedure is no excuse.
    Hi jack.

    Good point; thanks.

    Regards,
    Jim

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    I don't know about you, but when I see a school bus stopped anywhere up ahead I slow down to a crawl and I'm ready to stop for the sign and lights if they suddenly come on.
    Agreed however the bus could have been slowing down for a turn. According to the citation there were no amber lights activated and at 55 mph there would be very little to no time to identify the bus as slowing or stopping and then react.

    Quote Quoting flyingron
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    The fact there is a slowing or stopped school bus IS the notice (though some school buses now have flashing yellow lights). You're not going to win this. Have you used your nolo yet?
    I guess we'll see tomorrow (May 4), that's when I'll be heard in court. As I mentioned in other comments, the citation has images of my vehicle approaching and passing the bus but indicates that the amber lights were not active so there would have been no early warning that the vehicle was coming to a stop. I'll post what happens after I get back from court. I think I'll win... I've been preparing for a few days now.

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    All school buses have long had flashing yellow lights that illuminate before the red lights come on. The yellow lights warn drivers to slow in anticipation of the activation of the red lights and stop sign.
    The citations says: Amber Duration: 0.0 Seconds

    Quote Quoting jim_hoerner
    View Post
    Hi, nailed.

    So it sounds like you have three potential proposed defenses...
    1) You could not have safely stopped given the short notice you had.
    2) As far as you can tell, there were no passengers exiting the bus.
    3) You may not have even been the driver.

    PS: Great username, ha.
    Thanks (about the name and the information)

    I am going to move forward with the first one. If I get shot down then I'll proceed with the third one since the citation provides zero evidence of who was driving at the time. OCGA 40-6-163 does not specify that the registered owner of the vehicle, nominated operator, or lessee shall be held liable of such violation. I realize this is not a murder trial however it should be the burden of the court to prove who the guilty party is. (at least in my mind... which doesn't really mean much but still...)

    I have made several calls to the both Gwinnett Transportation Department and to RedFlex to request maintenance and calibration reports for the bus named in the citation but was denied. RedFlex said that I would have to request the information at my court appearance so... if option 1 and 3 fail, then I'll request the information. Either they will provide it and I'll request additional time to view it or they won't have it and I'll ask for the citation to be dismissed.

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
    View Post
    I think that conversation would go something like this:

    Defendant: I wasn't driving the car that day.
    Judge: Who was?
    Defendant: I don't want to incriminate anybody.
    Judge: Well, where are your witnesses that you were somewhere else.
    Defendant: I have their statements.
    Judge: Sorry, statements are inadmissable if they aren't here to testify. Anything else?
    Defendant: Yes, I'd like to question the officer and the bus driver who are accusing me.
    Judge: OK, where are they?
    Defendant: Uh, well, they aren't here.
    Judge: Didn't you subpoena them?
    Defendant: Uh, no.
    Judge: Well, that's how you get people into court to testify.
    Defendant: I didn't know.
    Judge: Ignorance of the procedure is no excuse. Anything else?
    Defendant (by now rolled up into a little ball): No, your honor.
    Judge: Guilty
    Is it not the burden of the court to prove I was the driver of the vehicle? That would mean that if they don't have the officer or the bus driver, then they've failed to prove I was driving.

    I realize this isn't a murder charge but had my truck hit a child and killed someone, the first thing they would do is prove I was behind the wheel otherwise the case would be tossed, correct?

    Quote Quoting jim_hoerner
    View Post
    Hi jack.

    Good point; thanks.

    Regards,
    Jim
    All very good points and everyone gave me a lot to think about going into court tomorrow.

    To me it's fairly simple however I'm not a lawyer, I don't have experience in this type of case, and honestly... anything goes really. If the judge doesn't want to hear from me, I really have very few options.

    I'm putting on my best Ben Matlock suit and will Law and Order this to death. If all else fails, I'm going to call Saul.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    Okay so my day in court came and to be honest, I am a little disappointed.

    ... I know, most if not all of you felt quite confident that I didn't have a chance anyway but here's the deal.. I was really, really prepared. By prepared I mean I had statistics, mathematical equations, pages from the Georgia Drivers Manual, maps, photos of the scene... I had everything... I had a primary argument that was fully supported but also a secondary just in case he didn't find any merit in the first... but in the end the judge didn't want to hear a word of it.

    Why?

    Simple. I was called and asked to sit in the witness box, the judge asked me if I needed to see the video and I responded with "No Your Honor".. he said kind of snotty "Well I do" and they played it 3 times. The judge then asked the court clerk "How long was the amber lights on?" and she looked kind of puzzled, checking twice. She then replied "0 seconds" (this was the basis of of my primary argument). The judge asked for her to confirm "0 seconds", which she did... he then said "Okay, case dismissed, you may step down" and that was it.

    So to those who said I was going to loose or had to hire a lawyer... HA! lol. Thankfully you were wrong.

    It was almost embarrassing listening to some of the other people arguing their case. They weren't prepared at all and their arguments were very weak.. no wonder the judge was constantly annoyed the entire time he was sitting at the bench.

    I will say this... the entire bus safety program is a SCAM! Don't get me wrong, I see the importance of protecting children (I have a child and couldn't imagine anything happening to her) but seriously, this program is grossly abused. There is ZERO reason why my citation should have been issued except for one reason...... $$$$$. Their entire system is based around one thing... issue as many citations as possible in hopes that most people will just pay it and ignore their other options. Even when you get into the courtroom they attempt to scare most people into paying.... "this is your last opportunity and we'll give you a break and only charge you $200... once the judge comes out you have ZERO chance of getting this offer again and he's heard it all, you will lose and have to pay the full amount."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Passing a School Bus Seconds After the Stop Arm Extended

    I have no way of knowing why the school bus driver did not activate his amber lights, the highly important fact you chose not to share with us until a week after the effective conclusion of the discussion, and even then chose to bury in what you now must understand to have been a largely irrelevant ramble. As you should now be able to figure out, that's the first detail you should have brought to our attention.

    A note to future people posting about school bus tickets, or for that matter any ticket involving a traffic control device: We only know what you tell us, and if you choose not to tell us important facts we won't be able to suggest a defense based on those facts. If you're not able to figure out what facts are important, then don't whine when you're told that you should get help from a lawyer -- and if you can, don't whine that we didn't successfully guess about key facts you chose to withhold.

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