Van Buren officers will be doing ride-alongs and patrolling bus routes on the lookout for motorists passing stopped school buses.

As part of the Arkansas Board of Education school bus safety week set for Oct. 15-21, Van Buren Police Department school resource officers will make extra effort to enforce state law against passing a stopped school bus, said Sgt. Frank Petray.

“That’s probably our biggest problem with school buses, are motorists who pass them when their lights are flashing and they’re loading and unloading children,” Petray said.

Two officers will be riding buses as they travel their normal routes, while two other officers will patrol bus routes in unmarked vehicles, Petray said.

“Especially on the city streets, passing stopped buses is extremely dangerous,” Petray said. “Kids are kids and are sometimes not paying attention, and you can imagine a very tragic situation.”

Arkansas Code § 27-51-1004 states that when a school bus stops and displays its flashing red lights, every driver coming from any direction must bring their vehicle or motorcycle to a complete stop before they reach the school bus. They must remain stopped until students have finished boarding or exiting the bus and the bus begins moving again.

This includes when buses are traveling on a multi-lane highway without a dividing strip or median that is at least 20 feet wide.

Petray noted the problem of motorists passing a stopped bus often happens on multi-lane streets and highways.

“A lot of motorists, I think, do not understand the law when it comes to stopped school buses,” Petray said.

Violating Arkansas school bus laws can carry a stiff penalty. Anyone convicted of passing a stopped school bus can face a fine of $250 to $1,000, up to 90 days in jail, driver’s license suspension of 21 days to 1 year, and up to 400 hours of community service.

Van Buren officers will begin their route patrols and bus ride-alongs on Monday, Oct. 16, Petray said.