Gov. Eric Holcomb announced on Monday that more than 200 law enforcement agencies will conduct extra patrols to safeguard students statewide as they get on and off the bus this fall.
Over the next couple of months, police officers will be positioned at bus stops and along routes looking for stop-arm violations and motorists driving dangerously, according to a news release from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
The overtime patrols are part of the state’s Stop Arm Violation Enforcement (SAVE) program, which was developed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute last year and funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As part of the effort, officers will work with local school corporations and bus drivers to identify problem areas where the highest number of violations occur.
“Police officers are stepping up their efforts to keep kids safe, but they can’t be in all places at all times,” Holcomb said. “School bus safety is everyone’s responsibility. That means paying attention to the road and driving cautiously when buses are around.”
In 2019, nearly 7,000 bus drivers in Indiana participated in the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services’s annual national stop-arm survey and reported more than 2,500 stop-arm violations in a single day. Taking that one-day total as an average, that means an estimated 450,000 violations could have occurred during the 2019 school year.
In Indiana, it is against the law for motorists to pass a bus that is stopped and has its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended. This applies to all roads, with one exception. On multi-lane roads divided by a physical barrier or unpaved median, vehicles traveling the opposite direction of the bus may proceed with due caution.
“Always err on the side of caution when it comes to school bus safety. If you’re not sure what to do, just stop,” said Devon McDonald, the executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. “The best way to think about it is to drive like it’s your child boarding or riding that bus.”
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, a statewide crackdown on stop-arm running was spurred by a tragic crash that killed three students who were siblings and injured one other as they were trying to board their school bus on Oct. 30, 2018. It has included a law signed by Holcomb in May 2019 that increased penalties for violating a stop arm from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, and an opinion from the state’s attorney general that the board that establishes school bus safety standards can allow the use of extended stop arms in the state.