ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. — An Indiana state trooper is going the extra mile to make local roads safer for children who ride school buses.
Over the past few years, Trooper Jim Zeser of the Indiana State Police has successfully lobbied for signs that alert drivers to stop for school buses. The signs have been installed along a highway in Dunlap and an avenue in Elkhart.
This summer, Zeser continued his quest after he was contacted by Jeremy Schotts, an officer with the Middlebury Police Department, about drivers not stopping for school buses on another highway in Elkhart County.
Sgt. Ted Bohner of the Indiana State Police told SBF that the safety issue arose when a stretch of the highway was widened into a four-lane road with a center turn lane, which led to some confusion among motorists approaching stopped school buses. Oncoming traffic and some same-direction vehicles were driving past buses that were loading or unloading passengers.
Zeser went to the area and saw that there were no signs instructing all drivers to stop for school buses. The trooper contacted the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and asked that they look at the area and post signs.
Last week, Zeser followed up and found that there are now four signs posted — two for eastbound traffic and two for westbound traffic — that warn drivers that “all lanes stop when school bus stops.” Also, four additional fluorescent signs with school buses on them have been installed.
“Dirk Schmidt with INDOT did a great job getting this area marked,” Zeser said in a press release. “This will get us headed in the right direction and help with enforcing this violation.”
Bohner told SBF that the local district, Middlebury Community Schools, just started school on Wednesday. If the school bus passing issue persists, he said, troopers could add patrols in the area. But he expects the new signs to help.
“The signs are a nice visual way to educate the public” on stopping for school buses, Bohner said. “The biggest area when [drivers] aren’t sure is on a four-lane road. … Especially when there’s a center turn lane, people get confused.”
Indiana law requires drivers in all lanes, in both directions, to stop for a school bus with its stop arm extended. An exception is made for motorists on the opposite side of a highway divided by a physical barrier or undeveloped median.
As for the road signs that have been posted elsewhere in Elkhart County thanks to Zeser’s efforts, Bohner said they seem to be having a positive impact in deterring bus passing.
“I would say so, because we haven’t had the complaints [about stop-arm running] relayed back to us by the public or the school corporations in those areas,” Bohner said.