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Operation Blue Bird serves as reminder for Alachua County drivers

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The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a program this week called Operation Blue Bird, meant to remind drivers that passing a stopped school bus is illegal.

Nearly 13,000 of the 27,000 students attending school in Alachua County ride on one of 142 Alachua County School buses, according to a news release from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. These buses cover almost 400 routes.

Lt. Todd Kelly with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement officers monitor this behavior regardless of whether official operations are taking place.

“They are aware of where the school bus stops are and what the routes are,” Kelly said. “That is something they’re always looking out for.”

Florida State Statute 316.172 states a driver must stop when a school bus stops and turns on its flashing lights and extends its signs, unless there is an unpaved median of at least five feet, a raised median or a physical barrier separating the vehicle from the stopped school bus.

If a driver passes a stopped school bus, the penalty is $259, according to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. If a driver passes a school bus on the right side, the penalty is $359, in addition to a mandatory court appearance.

A study released in 2000 by the Center for Urban Transportation Research revealed an average of 180 incidents per day in Alachua County of drivers illegally passing school buses when loading or unloading.

Cassandra Vangellow wrote this story for online. 

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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