Now that school is back in session, traffic has increased throughout Delaware. Naturally, there is an increase in pedestrian traffic; children and parents will be walking to school, crossing streets, or walking to bus stops. Every day, school buses are picking up children and dropping them off. Delaware drivers must be mindful of school buses and school zones.
School bus accidents occur roughly every other day in Delaware. Last year, there were 190 auto accidents involving school buses. Fortunately, about 80% did not involve any physical injuries. Roughly 20% did result in physical injuries. A little less than half of those injured in Delaware school bus accidents last year were non-bus occupants, i.e., pedestrians or drivers/passengers of other vehicles. Data source: Delaware State Police Annual Traffic Statistical Report 2014.
The vast majority of school bus accidents occur in the largest county in Delaware – New Castle County, which includes Wilmington, Newark, New Castle and Middletown. Unfortunately, crashes involving school buses have gradually increased in New Castle County since 2011. The chart below shows a steady increase in the number of school bus accidents in New Castle County over the last 4 years, from 89 in 2011 to 153 in 2014.
Overtaking or Passing School Buses in Delaware
One of the main causes of school bus accidents in Delaware is overtaking or passing a stopped school bus. A driver who is not paying attention to a school bus may try to pass a stopped bus on the right or left and cause a collision with another car or strike a pedestrian. Whether it’s due to sheer carelessness or using a cell phone to make a phone call or text, these types of auto accidents can result in very serious injuries.
Delaware Law & Stopped School Buses
Title 21 of the Delaware Code Section 4166, Section (d) (Overtaking and passing school bus; stop signal devices.) prohibits drivers from overtaking or passing school buses which are both stopped and displaying flashing lamps. It is illegal to pass a school bus from behind or from the opposite direction. However, drivers approaching from the opposite direction on roads or highways with at least 4 lanes are not allowed to stop.
Penalties for Violation
Violators may face fines of between $115 to $230 and/or jail time (30-60 days), even for a first offense. Penalties increase for subsequent violations. In addition, the statute requires a driver’s license suspension for a period of at least 1 month (up to 1 year).
A driver who overtakes or passes a school bus may think they are in the clear, especially if they aren’t pulled over immediately. However, school bus operators and school crossing guards may report drivers who violate Section 4166(d). Under the law, if a police officer, school bus operator or crossing guard observes a violation of Delaware’s school bus passing law, the registered owner of the vehicle may receive a citation. The law presumes that the registered owner committed the violation. Section (f) of Section 4166 provides:
Identification of violators. — If any vehicle is witnessed by a police officer, school bus operator or school crossing guard to be in violation of subsection (d) of this section and the identity of the operator is not otherwise apparent, it shall be a rebuttable presumption that the person in whose name such vehicle is registered committed such violation of subsection (d) of this section.
About Knepper & Stratton
The lawyers at Knepper & Stratton have been handling auto accident injury cases for over 30 years. With offices in Wilmington, Newark and Dover, the firm is uniquely positioned to handle cases throughout Delaware. (302) 658-1717
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