BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – It’s a dangerous habit that could be putting children’s safety at risk.

Lowcountry officials say they’re worried that people are illegally passing school buses during their commutes. That’s after school bus drivers reported seeing drivers passing stopped school buses and brought it to the attention of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is my child. Once he steps on the bus, this is my child until I get him back home to you,” explained Maurice Brown, a 23-year bus driver and now a bus driver trainer for Beaufort County.

That’s how Brown and many other school bus drivers in Beaufort County feel about the 11,000 kids who ride their buses. And why some of those drivers reached out to law enforcement about cars and trucks passing them, even when the stop sign is out.

“We have some kids we can’t pick up on the door side they actually have to cross the road and don’t even stop for the stop arm,” said Brown.

The concern is because of increased traffic and drivers who don’t seem to care about the consequences, school officials are worried about the next violent accident to happen here.

“I look at this as an opportunity,” explained Eldridge Black, Beaufort County Schools Director of Transportation. “Yes, it is a concern but its an opportunity to reach out to the community and let them know.

“Be mindful there are little ones that have to cross the street and when you disobey the law it puts the students in harm’s way.”

It’s a message News 3 shares every school year but seems to be falling on deaf ears, especially in booming Bluffton.

That’s why Brown has to take matters into his own hands for kids, literally.

“We put in our child’s head from day one,” Brown explained. “This (hand up in stop motion) means you don’t move, you stay put, stay put and when its time for them to cross and we have seen that all traffic has stopped and it is clear that (come forward sign with hand) means its safe to proceed to the bus.”

While Brown does what he can to keep children safe on the road, he encourages others to do the same.

“Whenever you see us, no matter where we are and we are picking up a child and those red lights are going, please stop,” Brown said. “The life of a child could depend on you stopping.”

Know the rules of the road

In South Carolina, if the lights are only flashing yellow, that signifies drivers to slow down.

But state law mandates that a motorist stops for a stopped school bus with flashing red lights under the following conditions:

  • If you are on a two-lane highway, traveling in either direction
  • If you are on a multi-lane highway traveling behind the bus

If you are on a multi-lane highway and meet a stopped school bus heading toward you, you don’t have to stop but should slow down and pass with caution.

courtesy South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Passing a stopped school bus could cost you over $1,000 and six points on your license. It’s also been reported that for a first offense, drivers could spend up to 30 days in jail.

Drivers should note that laws in South Carolina vary from those in Georgia.

According to a new law in the Peach State, if a school bus is stopped on a road with its lights on and sign out, drivers have to stop no matter what.

The law applies to two-lane and four-lane roads as well as roads with a turning lane.

Motorists do not have to stop if there is a median in the road that separates the driver and the bus.

courtesy Georgia Department of Education