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Mon, Jan. 20

<i>Breaking the law</i><BR>Motorists on both sides of Highway 89 often don't stop for school buses<BR>

Chino Valley hasn't seen an accident involving children boarding or unloading from a school bus in the 14 years that Chino Valley Police Department Det. Mark Garcia has been on the squad and he'd like to keep it that way.

Review/Diane DeHamer

A school bus approaches Del Rio Elementary School on Road 1 West on the first day of school this past Monday.

Now that school started for Chino Valley School District schools on Monday, Garcia reminds drivers to be especially careful on town streets and Highway 89. To protect children, the state has laws surrounding school bus flashing lights and school crossings.

"The main issue is that you cannot control what a child is going to do," Garcia said. "He may lose a paper in the wind and take off chasing it."

Garcia said watching out for school children is especially important in Chino Valley where most streets have no sidewalks and children walk on road easements on the side.

"People really need to pay attention to kids walking in and out of the school areas on the easements because we have no sidewalks. Maybe someday we will."

School bus flashing lights and stop sign – Chino Valley school buses pick up and drop off children at stops along Highway 89. Once the bus stops and the bus driver turns on the flashing lights and flips open the stop sign on the side of the bus, drivers coming BOTH directions must stop. Officers can cite drivers for failing to stop and the fine is $185 at the Chino Valley Municipal Court. Drivers on Highway 89 often don't stop, Garcia pointed out. Some drivers may be confused by the law requiring them to stop for school buses or not.

Highway 89 has only a center turn lane and not a physical median separating the northbound and southbound sides of the highway. The law (ARS 28-857D and E) reads that "the driver of a vehicle on a highway with separate roadways need not stop on meeting or passing a school bus that is: 1. On a different roadway… E. For the purposes of subsection D, a lane or group of lances on either side of a two-way left turn lane is not considered a separate roadway."

Garcia said his department hears complaints from other motorists or from school bus drivers who report violations of this law.

"It's pretty widespread," Garcia said of the violations.

School crossings, 15 mph-zones – schools set up a 15 mph-zone signs and Chino Valley schools have them on Center Street by the high school, Mahan and Road 1 East by Territorial Elementary School, two signs on Road 1 West, which include one for Excel Education center and one by Del Rio Elementary and Heritage Middle schools. This slows traffic enough to make school areas safer. The fine for violating this law is also $185 in the local court.

New resident registration/license – Another violation that officers notice more at the beginning of the school year is new residents who don't change their car registration and driver license after moving to the area. Arizona law requires that new residents register their vehicles "immediately" after moving here.

Garcia said that at the beginning of the school year, officers often see people in cars with out-of-state license plates dropping off and picking up children and they've recently moved to the area.

The definition of resident includes the following:

• work in Arizona (other than for seasonal agricultural work)

• place children in school without paying the tuition rate of a non-resident

• have a business with an office in Arizona, and that bases of operates vehicles in this state

• obtain a state license or pay school tuition fees at the same rate as an Arizona resident

• have a business that operates vehicles to transport goods of passengers within Arizona

• remain in Arizona for a total of seven months or more during any calendar year, regardless of your permanent residence.

Violating this law comes with a $300 fine that the judge can reduce to $50 once the motorist shows he or she has registered the vehicle and obtained a driver's license.

For more information on these or other laws, contact Garcia at 636-4223.

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