CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On more than half of the school bus routes targeted during a week-long crackdown, multiple stop-arm runners received tickets and fines.
West Virginia State Police troopers tagged along on routes with stop-arm running problems in nine counties during National School Bus Safety Week (Oct. 22-26). Police issued seven citations and one warning ticket to motorists who illegally passed school buses, according to data collected by the West Virginia Department of Education.
State pupil transportation director Ben Shew told SBF that one trooper rode on the bus, while another was positioned in a patrol car to stop the violators. Shew also noted that West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple rode a bus and held a press conference in two regions during the week.
“We had good media coverage across the state,” Shew said.
The safety sweep, the second in six months, was announced the same day that a Nicholas County girl suffered a broken leg and foot when she was struck by a motorist after getting off her school bus. Officials said that the 8-year-old is recovering from her injury, which required surgery.
“This accident illustrates how serious this problem is,” Marple said. “We are fortunate that she was not more seriously injured.”
As part of the 2012 national stop-arm running survey, West Virginia transportation directors found that about 450 motorists illegally passed stopped school buses in one day in the state. The highest rate was in Mercer County, where 88 motorists illegally passed school buses on the day of the survey — including 12 drivers at a single stop.
“These eye-opening statistics show why I am grateful that the State Police and other law enforcement agencies have joined forces with us in an effort to catch violators in the act as well as raise awareness,” Marple said.
Other partners in the school bus safety effort include the Charleston Police Department, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, West Virginia Media, and the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, which has helped with the placement of public service announcement posters at convenience stores statewide.
“Our recent partnership with the West Virginia Board of Education has confirmed the fact that education and enforcement efforts must be continued if we are to provide a safer environment for West Virginia’s most valuable resources: our children,” State Police Col. C. R. "Jay" Smithers said.
In West Virginia, drivers who illegally pass a school bus can be charged with a felony if their actions result in injury or death, and they can lose their license. A driver who causes an injury faces up to three years in prison, while a driver who kills someone could go to prison for up to 10 years. Those who simply fail to stop can be charged with a misdemeanor and can be jailed for up to six months.
On a related note, newly posted to the SBF video section is footage of a motorist in West Virginia passing a school bus on the right side. Another video, posted earlier this year, shows a stop-arm runner barely miss a boy crossing the road. To view the videos, go here.