The flashing red stop sign that extends off the side of a school bus means stop.
As area schools are already back in session or getting started in the next week, it’s a good time to remind everyone to not pass stopped school buses.
This shouldn’t be something motorists need to be reminded of — we expect teenagers to know it when they’re taking their driver’s license test — but, sadly, it’s proven to be something many drivers either forget or willingly ignore.
Ask local bus drivers and school transportation directors and you’ll quickly find out that multiple people violate the law. Daily.
A national bus drivers’ organization takes an annual one-day survey of violations and in the 2018-19 event, they reported more than 95,000 violations.
In Indiana, the nearly 6,900 participating bus drivers reported 2,653 violations. If that represents an average day, that would mean more than 475,000 violations occur statewide in an 180-day school year.
Bus stop arm violations have become especially front-and-center in Indiana within the last year, after a driver in a pickup truck hit and killed three children in Fulton County in an entirely preventable and tragic incident.
If there’s a silver lining to that tragedy, it’s that officials all across the state took the incident very seriously and immediately got to work on ways to beef up not only enforcement of bus violations but also crank up penalties for people caught breaking the law.
State lawmakers adopted tougher penalties and increased fines for bus violations. Just recently, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced $380,000 was being sent to numerous police departments around the state to help pay for additional enforcement of stop arm laws.
There were no communities in the four-county area that received that funding, but local school districts have been taking steps even without direct state support.
Last year, the LaGrange County Prosecutor’s Office announced a new task force with county schools to specifically to battle stop arm violations. It didn’t take them long to issue their first tickets and make arrests.
On July 25, a Pennsylvania truck driver was sentenced for a misdemeanor bus violation charge after he blew past a stopped bus on S.R. 120 on the county’s west side. The man spent two days in jail and was fined $400, and the misdemeanor conviction could put his commercial driver’s license in jeopardy.
Districts have more frequently been adding stop arm cameras to buses and coordinating with local police departments in an effort to catch stop arm violators.
Yes, you may be running late for work or distracted by your cell phone or coffee or whatever else. But it’s never OK and never safe to pass a school bus that is stopped to pick up or drop off children.
And if you need additional encouragement beyond that, just remember police are paying extra attention looking to bust dangerous drivers.
The stop arm on a bus means stop.
Stop ignoring it.
OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Grace Housholder, Dave Kurtz, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. We welcome readers’ comments.