FLINT, Mich. — Following the results of this year’s national stop-arm running survey, the transportation team at Genesee Intermediate School District took a proactive step in addressing the issue by partnering with the Michigan State Police for a sting operation to catch violators.
As SBF previously reported, this year’s national count found 85,279 violations in a single day.
Genesee Intermediate School District’s school bus drivers were among those who participated in the survey, along with bus drivers at school districts in Lapeer and Shiawassee counties. The 150 participants at the operations in these three counties reported 98 violations.
Chad Sexton, director of transportation services at Genesee Intermediate School District, told SBF that this number troubled him, and he sent a letter of concern to the Michigan State Police.
“We have a good relationship with the Michigan State Police, and it was an educational opportunity for me and for them because they were stunned and alarmed at the high number on that particular day, and they came to the conclusion that if it was that many on that day, it was probably happening on many more days,” Sexton explained.
As Sexton continued to talk to his district’s school bus drivers about the issue, they informed him that motorists illegally pass their school buses on a daily basis. With the drivers’ help, the team was able to pin down within a 10- to 15-minute window when and where the violations were occurring.
“Everything went back to the school bus drivers,” Sexton said. “Without them, we would have no record of the violations and no opportunity for follow-up dialogue.”
He went on to say that he gave the data to Michigan State Police Sgt. Artis White, who was “very enthusiastic about helping Genesee Intermediate School District.”
White and a team of eight troopers organized a one-day sting to crack down on the stop-arm offenders by following the district’s buses in squad cars to the areas where the most violations were occurring and issuing tickets when they observed violations.
White told SBF that he and his troopers also did a sting in Shiawassee County, and during that one and the one for Genesee Intermediate School District, troopers wrote two citations to motorists who ran the buses’ stop arm. (He also said they plan on doing more sting operations before the end of this year.)
"The reason we can mobilize and conduct specific traffic details like this is because of our new policing concept of 'mobile policing' or policing without boundaries," White explained. "That allows me to gather my whole squad at any time and place them where they are needed most. That's the reason we can continue to patrol the stopped school buses thoughout the year."
In discussing stop-arm running, White said that issuing citations is one component, but he and his colleagues’ primary concern is educating the offenders and the community about the dangers of bus passing.
“The overall goal is to get the word out and make people aware so that they don’t do it,” he said. “We also wanted to educate the school bus drivers on how to report the violators and to help them understand who to turn in the report to.”
White added that he has had meetings with bus drivers to share with them the information on submitting a violation report, and he said that taking this step can help to ensure a successful relationship between law enforcement and pupil transportation.
“School bus drivers have a lot to do,” he said. “If they feel that their efforts will have a good final result [i.e., a citation being issued], they’ll continue to be a good partner in contributing to the reporting.”