Troopers of the Van Wert Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol pose with several Van Wert City School bus drivers as part of a safe driving initiative the patrol is involved in. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)
School has been back in session for a few weeks but already bus drivers have been reporting violations of safety laws. Van Wert City Schools Assistant Superintendent Bill Clifton surveyed their 13 bus drivers and found that so far this year around 40-50 people have run the bus stop lights. That’s 40-50 people in six weeks. To address the situation, the Van Wert Post of the State Highway Patrol contacted Clifton with a plan to inform the public about the situation and ensure better compliance of the law to protect students.
Trooper Matt Gardner explained what the patrol was planning to do.
“We are going to have a trooper on the bus and another trooper following the bus," he said. "There will be radio contact between the two of them so if the trooper on the bus sees a violation he can radio the other trooper to make a traffic stop if necessary. The trooper on the bus will also interact with the kids so if the kids have concerns when they get off the bus they can address them with the trooper.”
Gardner said violators were just probably hurrying to their destination but added, “Going around a school bus to save 10 seconds isn’t worth hitting a kid.”
Ashley Saam, a Van Wert City School bus driver, said she has already noted six school bus arm stop violations this year. She added that it was difficult for bus drivers to get sufficient information on the violators. She said she would urge drivers to “pay attention, get off your phones.”
Once Saam recalled a driver who barely stopped in time and Saam said she saw the driver was concentrating on her phone. Saam, who has been a driver at Van Wert for 11 years, said four years ago a driver weaved around parked cars on Maple to pass her on her door side as a preschooler was exiting the bus. Clifton and the drivers spoke on a driver around the fairgrounds who moved between a bus and the fence on the grass to pass.
Another Van Wert City School bus driver, Mike Ragan, also spoke on the need for drivers to use caution. Ragan, who said he has experienced one bus stop arm violation this year, said there had been an aide on the bus at the time of the violation who took down the information. This information was submitted to city police who investigated the report and issued a ticket the same day. According to Ragan, the driver when asked by police simply said, “I just wasn’t paying attention.”
Van Wert City Schools does have a school bus with a stop arm camera on it. According to Clifton it had been following another bus which experienced two drivers ignoring the stop arm and going around the bus.
Clifton praised law enforcement for their efforts. He noted that the district has neighborhood bus stops placed around the city and in both the morning and the afternoon officers “are trying to become very visible at those bus stops.”
Clifton added, “I just want to thank our Van Wert City Police Department, the state highway patrol, the sheriff’s office because they really do show a vested interest in trying to provide safety to all of our bus fleets at Van Wert and in the county.”
Original article courtesy of the Times Bulletin.