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 weeks, 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 are participating 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.
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 2,091 stop-arm violations in Indiana. That one-day total, when multiplied by the number of school days, adds up to a potential 376,380 violations throughout the school year.
“It is disheartening that we still have people who are willing to put the lives of students and bus drivers at risk,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI executive director. “Law enforcement cannot be everywhere, so it is up to drivers to do the right thing and exercise caution around school buses. Students’ lives depend on it.”
The data comes from the National School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey, which is managed by the Indiana Department of Education in the state. This year, data collection took place April 25, with 6,665 bus drivers participating from 195 school districts.
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.
If the person disregarding a school bus stop arm causes bodily injury to a person, the offense becomes a Class 6 felony. Violators face anywhere from six months to two and a half years in jail. If someone is killed, the offense becomes a Class 5 felony, carrying a sentence between one year and six years.