In light of continued school bus law violations in Jerauld County, local law enforcement and school officials announce that strict enforcement of school bus laws will be enforced.  Editor’s note: During the 30 seconds it took to take the photo above, three cars unlawfully sped around the school bus, even with its stop sign extended and lights flashing.

In an effort to curb ongoing school bus safety violations, local law enforcement and school officials have a message for motorists on Jerauld County roadways: the safety of our community’s children is at risk when drivers pass a stopped school bus — and strict enforcement of school bus laws will be enforced.  

“Over and over again we see motorists passing school buses, even when its red lights are flashing and the stop sign is extended,” said Jerauld County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Sheldon.  “We are seeing that this is a continued problem from last school year and we want to make motorists aware of the laws — and the penalties that will be handed down when those laws are violated.” 

State law mandates that: "the duty of motorists when meeting a school bus with its red signal lights flashing is to come to a complete stop not closer than fifteen feet from the school bus and shall remain stopped until the flashing red signal lights are extinguished.”

“Until the bus has retracted its stop sign and turned all warning lights off, motorists must stop no matter what direction you’re coming from,” Sheldon reminds area drivers. “The penalty for disregarding that starts at $120.”

Sheldon also pointed out that in addition to paying attention to flashing lights on school buses, drivers must also make sure road laws are obeyed.

“As we get into the swing of students being back at school, people need to remember to change their driving habits in and around school zones: yield to pedestrians in school zones, yield in crosswalks, pay close attention to the posted speed limit.”

In Wessington Springs, the posted speed limit is 25 mph with school zone speed posted as 15 mph by the high school. By the elementary school, as noted on the flashing speed board, the posted speed is 20 mph.

Sheldon also reminds motorists that exceeding the posted speed in school zones can come at a hefty price. Driving one to five mph over the speed limit in a school zone results in a $100 fine; six to 10 mph over the posted school zone speed would cost a motorist $140. And as the speeds increase, so do the fines. 

In addition to slowing down and obeying road and school bus laws, Sheldon also urges motorists to put cell phones down and issues the reminder that texting and driving is illegal in South Dakota. 

“The safety of kids in this community is paramount — we all want to prevent the unthinkable —  and motorists need to realize that they play a big role in that.”