Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press Alan Bailey, a Tennessee Highway Patrol State Trooper in the Pupil Transportation Division, inspects a Hamilton County school bus for safety requirements. Bailey covers 13 counties of inspections and says that each bus is inspected annually.
Fight the urge to put the pedal to the metal, Chattanooga residents.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol has beefed up its presence at school zones to keep students safe.
Alan Bailey with the Pupil Transportation Division of the Highway Patrol said all state troopers are asked to work school zones unless they are called to an accident.
“We’ve done this every year,” Bailey said. “It’s mainly about getting people used to school zones again.”
School started back this week in Hamilton County.
Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety, said anyone caught speeding in a school zone could be fined up to $500.
Lt. John Harmon of the Highway Patrol said school-zone speed limits vary from 15 mph to 25 mph across the county. However, the main thing is for drivers to pay attention to the lights and signage.
“School zones are the same time every day,” Harmon said. “So when someone gets caught speeding, there’s no excuse.”
Larry Harper, 72, has been driving a school bus for six years and said the sight of a school bus usually is incentive for people to slow down.
Harper agreed that speeding was a problem, but he understands that 15 mph may seem like a “snail’s pace” for drivers who are used to going faster.
“I’m talking about when it’s 15 mph and people are going 25 mph, 30 mph or don’t even care,” Harper said. “They just don’t want to wait.”
Bailey said another back-to-school safety concern is drivers who do not stop when a school bus puts out its stop sign. To catch offenders, state troopers will be randomly following school buses.
State law requires anyone traveling in either direction to stop when a school bus has its stop sign out. The only exception is when a highway is divided by a concrete or grass median, not just a turn lane, Harmon said.
Most of the time, children do not have to cross oncoming traffic after exiting a bus, Harper said. However, because the school board designates the stops, there are times when children must cross the road in order to get home.
Penalties for failing to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading are between $250 and $1,000, Qualls said.