Video Shows More Than a Dozen Drivers in Bethesda Violating School Bus Stopping Law
Bethesda-area police commander hopes drivers learn they must stop for stopped school buses, even when traveling on the other side of most roads
Updated Wednesday - A video sent to the Bethesda-based 2nd District Montgomery County police commander Monday shows a slew of drivers whizzing by a school bus picking up students at an apartment building on River Road.
Most of the dozen or so drivers who failed to stop were traveling on southbound River Road. The bus was stopped on northbound River Road.
Capt. David Falcinelli, commander of the 2nd District, said it appears most of the drivers headed southbound were simply unaware they still are required by law to stop, even if a school bus is stopped on the other side of the road.
The only case in which drivers traveling in the opposite direction of a stopped school bus don’t have to stop is if there’s a median separating the two sides of the road.
At River Road near Little Falls Parkway, where the video was taken, there are two lanes in each direction divided not by a median, but by a turn lane.
“I have asked my officers to pay particular attention to this law and conduct enforcement whenever a violation is observed,” Falcinelli wrote in an email shared through the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
The fine for passing a stopped school bus with its stop arm extended is $570 and three points on a driver’s license. Drivers not caught by an officer on the scene but by cameras outfitted on some school buses will be issued a $125 fine, but not be docked any points.
Montgomery County police said later Tuesday that the bus shown in the video was equipped with a camera that recorded the drivers illegally passing.
"Those vehicles will be receiving citations in the mail," the police department said in a press release. "Officers will be proactively observing bus stops, to include the one in the video, and will be stopping vehicles that violate bus law."
“More importantly, you could kill or seriously injure a child,” Falcinelli wrote.
On Monday night, Falcinelli told the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board that 2nd District officers have conducted two cell phone enforcement operations near the intersection of River Road and Goldsboro Road.
In each operation, an officer stood on the River Road median and held a cardboard sign that read: “I’m not homeless. I’m a police officer doing cell phone enforcement.”
Falcinelli said the officer was looking for drivers texting or using their cell phones in other ways while driving. When the officer spotted a driver using a cell phone, a “stop team” was called in to stop the driver and issue a citation. Using any handheld cell phone device while driving is illegal in Maryland and fines range from $83 to $160. The fine for texting while driving is $70 and one point.
Falcinelli said the two operations, each between 60 and 90 minutes long, resulted in about 50 tickets issued in each operation. He said 2nd District officers plan to conduct a similar cell phone operation somewhere in the district Tuesday.