INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (ADAMS) – As students head back to the classroom, state and local law enforcement agencies are reminding motorists to stop for school buses or face the consequences. Over the next couple of months, officers will be increasing patrols to prevent stop-arm violations, speeding and other forms of reckless driving around school buses and in school zones.
More than 200 agencies plan to participate in the back-to-school Stop Arm Violation Enforcement campaign – better known as SAVE. The overtime patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through grants administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI).
“Drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus or speed in a school zone need to be held accountable,” said Gov. Eric J. Holcomb. “We owe it to our kids to make sure they get home safely. Every driver needs to do their part by paying attention, slowing down and protecting school children and buses.”
Despite thousands of motorists being cited under the SAVE program, unsafe driving around school buses continues to be a concern, according to state officials.
In April, thousands of bus drivers who participated in a one-day observational survey counted 2,041 stop-arm violations in Indiana. That one-day total, when multiplied by the number of school days, adds up to a potential 367,380 violations throughout the school year.
“The fact that we still have people willing to put students and bus drivers at risk is the reason this campaign is necessary,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “Still, law enforcement can’t be everywhere, so drivers need to do the right thing and exercise caution around buses. Students’ lives depend on it.”
The newly released data comes from the National School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey, which is managed by the Indiana Department of Education in the state. The survey has been conducted annually since 2011 but was put on hold for the past two years due to the pandemic.
This year, collection took place on April 26, with 6,665 bus drivers participating from 195 school districts.
“In order for Indiana’s students to learn, they must be able to travel safely to and from school,” said Dr. Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education. “That task is faithfully led by school transportation professionals across the state, but they can’t lead this important work alone. Anytime you see a school bus, please slow down, pause for all stop arms and be mindful that there may be young children near the road. They are our state’s most precious cargo.”
To prevent unsafe driving, officers will use a range of enforcement strategies from high-visibility patrols to police spotters on buses. For each jurisdiction, officers will coordinate with local bus drivers and school transportation officials, with efforts concentrating in the morning and afternoon hours. Agencies will also be working to raise awareness about the importance of school bus safety and following the law.
Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop when the overhead lights on a school bus are flashing yellow. Once the lights turn red and the stop arm extends, drivers are required to stop on all roads with one exception. On highways divided by a physical barrier, such as a concrete wall or grassy median, only vehicles traveling in the same direction as the school bus are required to stop.
Motorists should also be mindful of posted speed limits, avoid distractions and watch for children in or near school and residential areas. Planning ahead and allowing for extra time during each commute will help keep all road users safe.
Disregarding a school bus stop arm is a Class A Infraction. Violators could pay a fine of up to $10,000, have their license suspended for up to 90 days for the first offense or up to 1 year for the second.
Indiana State Police released the following ‘School Bus Safety’ tips:
Have your children put everything they carry in a backpack or school bag so that they won’t drop things along the way.
Attach a piece of high visibility fluorescent or reflective material to their clothing or backpack.
Make sure they leave home on time so that they can walk to the bus stop and arrive before the bus is due, running can be dangerous.
Go to the bus stop with a young child and have older children walk in groups. There’s safety in numbers because groups are easier for drivers to see.
If your child must walk in the street, walk single file, face traffic, and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.
Don’t let your child play running games or push or shove at the bus stop.
Make sure your child stands at least 6 feet (3 giant steps) from the road while waiting for the bus.
If children must cross the street to the bus, remind them to wait for the driver to signal that it’s safe to cross.
Tell your child if they drop something near the bus they should never pick it up, instead, they should tell the bus driver and follow the driver’s directions. Remind children to look to the right before they step off the bus, other drivers in a hurry sometimes try to sneak by buses on the right.
Teach your children to secure loose drawstrings and other objects that may get caught in the handrail or door of the bus as they are exiting.
Remind your children to be good bus riders, they should:
Be courteous to the bus driver and follow the driver’s directions.
Keep the aisles clear.
Stay seated for the entire bus ride.