Fifty-five percent of bus routes targeted by a week-long effort to stop motorists who illegally pass school buses ended with multiple violators receiving tickets and fines.
During National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 22-26, West Virginia State Police troopers boarded school buses on select trouble routes in Cabell, Jefferson, Hampshire, Harrison, Kanawha, Marshall, Mercer, Raleigh and Wood counties. Police issued seven citations and one warning ticket to motorists who ignored the school bus’s flashing red lights and extended stop arm, according to data collected by the West Virginia Department of Education. Troopers witnessed multiple violations on some routes while others did not see violations.
“We are appreciative of our partnership with the State Police and other organizations to keep our children safe,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple.
“We cannot allow motorists to continue to put the lives of our children at risk of injury or death. When motorists fail to obey the law, they endanger the lives of our children, our drivers and themselves.”
The safety sweep, the second in six months, was announced the same day a Nicholas County girl suffered a broken leg and foot when she was struck by a motorist after getting off the school bus in Summersville. The 8-year-old, a student at Summersville Elementary, 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. Motorists who fail to stop for our buses endanger the lives of our children 90,000 times each year. That is just unacceptable.”
Results of the 2012 National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation survey of county transportation directors found that about 450 motorists illegally passed stopped school buses in one day in West Virginia. In Mercer County, 88 motorists illegally passed school buses the day of the survey. Kanawha was second with 37, while Cabell had 35.
“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,” said State Police Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers.
Drivers who fail to stop when a school bus stops and flashes its warning lights can be charged with a felony if their actions result in injury or death and also can lose their license. A driver who causes an injury faces up to three years in prison; a driver who kills someone could be put in prison for up to 10 years. Those who simply fail to stop can be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed up to six months.
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.
For more information, contact the Office of Communication at 304-558-2699. Broadcast-ready public service announcements recorded by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as well as video and audio recorded by Marple are available at http://wvde.state.wv.us/news/2661/.