- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Passing a school bus that is picking up or dropping off students will be even more costly for offending drivers beginning Friday, when two pedestrian-safety initiatives become law in Maryland.

The maximum fine for ignoring a school bus that has its lights flashing and front safety bar extended will double to $1,000.

“You will stop, you will wait, because it indeed can cost you a lot of money if you don’t,” said state Delegate Karen S. Montgomery, Montgomery Democrat.

The steep maximum fine is meant for repeat offenders, but Mrs. Montgomery says a judge could impose it on a first-time offender if he or she feels it’s appropriate.

Last year, 663 drivers were cited in Montgomery County for overtaking or passing a stopped school bus. This year, 382 citations have been issued.

The other new law will free police officers from compulsorily having to appear in court every time they issue citations to drivers for failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

“This is precious time away from the streets and in our already clogged courts,” said Delegate William A. Bronrott, a Montgomery Democrat who sponsored the measure.

Officers would still go to court if a driver challenges a ticket.

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said officers will be glad to see the “must appear” rule go.

“Any time legislation or an effort improves our ability to keep pedestrians safe, we’re very pleased,” Chief Manger said.

Lawmakers and police leaders gathered at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School in Bethesda yesterday to highlight the new laws. They used the school setting to emphasize the three “E’s” of pedestrian safety — education, enforcement and engineering.

“Pedestrians of all ages deserve the freedom to cross the street without it being, or feeling like, a death-defying act,” Mr. Bronrott said.

Fourteen pedestrians and cyclists have died in vehicle-related accidents in Montgomery County this year.

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