Point Borough and Point Beach public school students returned to school today, so motorists are asked to be cautious as students walk, bike, skateboard and get on and off school buses.
Drives face potential fines and jail time if caught passing a school bus as students are getting on or disembarking from school buses, according to state motor vehicle law.
According to police, the state statute, 39:4-128.1, states that the potential penalty is a minimum fine of $100 and/or a maximum of 15 days in jail or community service, for a first offense, and a fine of at least $250 and/or 15 days of jail or community service for subsequent offenses.
The specific length of a sentence in jail or performing community service would be "in such terms as the court shall deem appropriate," the statute says.
The law mandates that drivers slow down and prepare to stop when a school bus in front of them, on either side of the road, starts to flash its yellow lights, according to the state Motor Vehicle Commission website, http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/Inspections/schoolbus/noflash/driving_near.htm.
When buses stop and flash red lights, drivers on both sides of the street must stop at least 25 feet away from the bus and not move forward until after the bus has turned off all lights and pulled back its extending safety arm.
Drivers are not allowed to pass a stopped bus, with lights flashing, in either direction when its safety arm is extended.
"However, if you are in front of a school, you may pass a bus from either direction at no more than 10 mph," the web site says.
Point Borough Police Captain Richard Larsen reminded drivers that the speed limit of 35 mph on Route 88 in front of Ocean Road School drops to 25 mph during the school year when the warning lights are flashing along the roadway.
"Drivers need to keep an eye out for school children," he said. "Drivers may be in a hurry and not be thinking about safety, but they should be."
Point Borough Councilman Robert Sabosik announced at Tuesday night's council meeting that the crossing guards now have, for the first time, portable stop signs.
He asked all residents to heed the guards and the signs and, in general, to be more careful about driving around town, especially when students go to school and at dismissal.
"Let's be diligent out there," he said.
When a resident asked if the school district can also remind students to be careful as they walk and bike, and to not text and bike simultaneously, Councilman Chris Leitner said, "That's a good point. I almost got hit by a kid texting and biking."