Like most parents, Abby Carlson wants nothing more than to have her children return safely from school each day. No, this isn’t an article about school shootings or child abductions, it’s about a topic that is more likely, but doesn’t regularly grab headlines — Missouri’s stop arm law.
Confusion over Missouri’s stop arm law makes Carlson worry about the “what ifs” each school day. Carlson’s two grade school children board the bus on Sommers Road, a busy two-lane stretch that goes right by Wentzville’s Liberty High School in St. Charles County. The road has center and right-side turn lanes, leading many to mistakenly believe they don’t have to stop. Carlson’s 6th grade son is all too aware of the danger; he recently lamented to his mother and said “It shouldn’t be this difficult for people to stop, to keep us safe.” And, it shouldn’t be. But, confusion over the law leaves students vulnerable and parents worried.
Just How Bad is the Issue?
At the close of the 2017 school year, public safety officials set out to learn how many motorists were ignoring the law. During that one-day survey, one-third of school bus drivers reported at least one instance of a driver failing to stop when the bus’ STOP arm was deployed.
On October 13th of 2018, Byrnes Law Firm shared a graphic on Facebook that was created by several area law enforcement agencies. The graphic should have cleared up some of the confusion over the issue, but Carlson and others were quick to remark that a number of scenarios were missing, further proving just how confusing the law actually is.
Fatalities at Bus Stops are Rising
Nationally, the issue is getting worse, not better. In October of last year, three Indiana children (all siblings) were struck and killed by a motorist on a busy two-lane highway. Less than a month later, a seven-year-old boy in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania was fatally struck in a hit-and-run incident.
While there will always be drivers who willfully ignore the law, it can be assumed that many do not actually understand this admittedly complex law. Which begs the question, do you know when to stop for school buses? The answer to this question isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem.
Do You Know When to Stop for School Buses?
The easiest way to understand Missouri’s stop-for-school-buses law, colloquially known as ”Jessica’s Law” is to remember that on a two-lane road — regardless of turn lanes — both lanes are required to come to a complete stop when a school bus is stopped and has its STOP arm extended. Motorists traveling in the same direction as a school bus — no matter how many lanes of traffic — should always stop when a school bus stops in front of them and extends its STOP arm.
As you can see in this updated infographic, the law is unnecessarily complicated. And, this graphic doesn’t even show all the possible scenarios, only the most common. It’s for this reason that Bill Byrnes of Byrnes Law Firm is proposing changes to the law.
A St. Charles Attorney Proposes Changes to the Law
Bill Byrnes of Byrnes Law Firm proposes that Missouri change the law so it is in line with other states. In this proposed change to the law, all oncoming traffic will be required to stop for school buses unless there is a physical barrier present, such as a grassy median or wall, separating the lanes of traffic.
We’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you have an opinion on the current law or the proposed changes? Please, contact us or leave us a comment on this page.