National School Bus Safety Week Goes Local with Operation Safe Stop
Local school bus violations have doubled since 2015-2016
The State College Area School District, State College Police Department, and local police are teaming up to stop a dangerous and illegal act: driving past school buses when students are boarding or disembarking.
During Operation Safe Stop on Oct. 24, officers from the Ferguson Township, Patton Township, and State College police departments will monitor bus stops across the district for drivers violating Pennsylvania's Meeting or Overtaking a School Bus Law. The effort will be part of National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 22-26.
Under the law, cars cannot pass a stopped school bus with flashing red lights. Unfortunately, many drivers break the law out of impatience or inattention, endangering children. During the 2017-2018 school year, SCASD reported 77 violations involving district-owned buses, an alarming total that doesn’t include the contracted buses that also transport students. According to police, local school bus violations have doubled since 2015-2016.
"Even one school bus violation is too many when our children's lives are at risk, but when you consider that the school year is 180 days, the number of reported violations is astounding,” the Ferguson Township police department stated.
Already this fall, the district has recorded 27 violations via cameras installed on all school buses. SCASD bus driver Linda Waite, for one, has had enough. In her 21 years behind the wheel, she has seen too many "red light violations"
"The biggest concern is that a student could get hurt or killed," she said.
Cars approaching a stopped school bus must stop at least 10 feet before the bus when its red signal lights and the stop arm are activated. Yellow lights, flashed as the bus approaches a stop, indicate cars should slow down and prepare to stop.
Drivers may not proceed until the flashing red lights are off. If at an intersection where a bus is stopped, a driver must remain stopped at the intersection while the red lights are flashing. Penalties for overtaking a stopped bus are severe: a $250 fine, five points on licenses, and a 60-day license suspension.
"The bus drivers I work with, we really love these kids," Waite said. "We want them to be safe."