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ALL RISE!!

I had to go to court recently and it was quite interesting, here’s how it happened:

I drive a school bus, one of the smaller ones, and while I was stopped to let a kid off, with all the lights flashing red and the “Stop” arm extended and flashing red, a driver pulled out from behind me and passed my bus on the left. Luckily, the student wasn’t crossing the street in front of my bus, to the left, or she would have been hit by that careless driver.

This reckless incident happens quite often, but it  was the first time I was able to get the license plate number of the offender. I called the local police station and was instructed to write up an incident report and bring it to the station, which I did that very afternoon. A couple of weeks later I got a phone call (while I was at the Philly Flower Show with my wife) from the local sheriff  informing me that I had been summoned to court; that driver had decided to plead not guilty.

My court date has come and gone, the judge found the driver guilty, issued a fine and added 3 points onto the driving record of the offender (click here to read more about PA’s point system). The judge was exceptionally lenient in this instance, the statute reads:

Vehicle Code 3345(a): Failure to stop for school bus with flashing red lights. . . . 60-day suspension. . . . . . . .and. . . 5 points added.

My role in the entire proceeding was minimal. I was called to the stand, answered a few questions, and returned to my seat. One of the more interesting aspects of this procedure was the fact that the careless driver had an attorney, an attorney that appeared to me to be about as competent in his field as a race horse with three legs! The judge even scolded him once for “rolling his eyes” at the judge. I had to restrain myself from outwardly voicing a sigh in disgust at the lawyer’s attempt to justify why the driver didn’t stop – “your honor, the driver isn’t obligated to stop on her way home from work and help a homeless person.” I was in disbelief at such a comparison as that!

Do you think justice was served in this case? I think the driver received what amounted to be a hard slap on the wrist. She should have gotten the 60 day suspension and the full 5 points added to her driving record. I can only hope that she thinks twice the next time she sees a stopped school bus with flashing red lights; such carelessness is inexcusable.

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8 Responses

  1. Well, as someone who has reached out to help a single mom by not reporting her carelessness when she ran a stop sign and rammed us by agreeing to take payments for the repair, and then got screwed because of course she didn’t repay us and she can’t be reached… I think that woman who purposely passed a stopped school bus should have lost her license for 15 days, at least. Absolutely. There have to be consequences. I can tell you we won’t be that lenient again. She’s a mom, right? What if it was her kid getting out and possibly crossing the road? I understand leniency but too much leniency only leads to too much negligence and lack of concern for consequences. If you change the rules depending on who is on trial, they mean nothing. That’s just as true for the ‘poor’ as for the ‘rich’ – the law is the law. Change the law or apply it equally.

    • Ah, and I said 15 days because I had to transport my son for a 15 day suspension. Pain? Yes. I didn’t do it and I had to pay for it by transporting him. Still, it’s fair. She should have had the 60 day suspension (plus the license retrieval fee). Of course, she will have to pay the court costs and the lawyer fee. Those aren’t cheap.

    • Ms. LK, it’s hard for me to say that she did it on purpose, I’m thinkin she just wasn’t payin much attention. Which is still no excuse. I think she should have admitted her carelessness in court and offered a sincere apology, promising to be more attentive when driving and approaching a stopped school bus, lights flashing or not. This lady showed no remorse for her careless driving, she was trying to wriggle her way out of it with a weak defense from her attorney and the judge had no part of it. Again, I’ll say that I was a little disappointed that she didn’t receive the full punishment. My guess is that she makes a pretty good income, I heard she works at the penitentiary. (I’m also quite sure that she knows who I am and it’s quite possible that she may have even read this blog post.)

  2. Judges and Police Officers have discretion and use it for a reason. Everything isn’t always black and white! I was given a break one time by a lenient deputy sheriff who could have given me a DUI. I can tell you it would’ve ruined my life as I know it now. Everyone deserves at least ONE break! Just my take…

    • Phillip, I’m glad you got a break, I’ve gotten a couple myself. But I’m certain this lady’s life would not have been ruined had she gotten the full punishment for her carelessness. I ALWAYS think about the tragedy of a kid being hit by a driver who ignores a stopped school bus with red lights flashing! You can’t put a price on a life. I think in this instance the driver pleaded ignorance with a sad sappy story about being a single mom with no other way to work. This lady had someone in the courtroom with her, maybe it was her boyfriend or possibly a brother that could have helped her find an alternative way to work. The suspended driving period, had the judge doled that out to her, would have been 60 days, a relatively short period of time. An inconvenience yes, but at what cost? I shudder at the thought of what could have happened. School bus drivers see this violation all the time on a regular basis, it’s a miracle that we’re not seeing kids pay dearly for it!

  3. As you know I’ve spent many a day in the court room with the ex wife. I too have been in disbelief at some of the decisions that were made on those given days; like how I could be considered an alcoholic by my ex wife because she presented the court with a picture of a highball glass of coke with a cherry in it. I think many of these attorneys and judges work for the Willie, Lie and Cheatham law firm I you know what I mean. That being said, I’m gonna continue fighting for my daughter just as you will continue fighting for the safety of children. Everyone will have to answer at some point.

    • In your case, it truly is an abomination to the overall goodness of the justice system. In my case the offending driver said she was a “single mom, with no other way to work.” And I think that had a bearing on the judge’s leniency.

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