Pa. state trooper rides along with kids in New Stanton to reinforce school bus traffic laws
A group of Stanwood Elementary School students in New Stanton had an extra layer of protection Wednesday afternoon on their way home.
A state police trooper from Greensburg rode inside the bus with the youngsters, and another trooper followed behind in an unmarked police car, looking for drivers who didn’t heed the bus safety laws as the students were dropped off from school for the day.
The effort was part of Operation Safe Stop, a statewide enforcement campaign conducted in New Stanton and Latrobe during National School Bus Safety Week. The event is intended to alert motorists of the dangers of passing a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading students.
“One of our most important things is keeping people safe in general. When it comes to our children, our most precious commodity, keeping them safe is at the top of our priority list,” said Trooper Steve Limani, who was driving the unmarked police car.
There were 1,172 fatal school-related transportation accidents from 2006 to 2015, according to a 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. School bus fatalities accounted for a fraction of a percent of the overall 324,710 fatal vehicle crashes during that time. Less than a quarter of those killed in the school transportation accidents were children, with 301 of the 1,313 fatalities being those 18 or younger, according to the report.
“Each illegal pass of a stopped school bus is potentially a life-threatening situation for the 1.5 million students” riding a school bus daily in the state, police said.
A driver approaching a school bus with the stop arm extended and red lights flashing must stop at least 10 feet from the bus, whether following the bus or approaching it from the opposite direction. Drivers approaching an intersection where a school bus is stopped also must stop until the vehicle’s flashing red signals are no longer active.
“Ten feet is the minimum, but we ask, please give it at least 10, 20, 30, 40 feet,” Limani said.
When approaching a school bus, motorists should anticipate that it might stop to get children or unload them, Limani said.
Motorists convicted of violating school bus safety laws could be fined $250, face a license suspension for 60 days and receive five points on their driving record. That fine is the equivalent of a motorist driving 31 mph over the speed limit, Limani said.
When buses are stopped along a road with a barrier, such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete medians, motorists traveling in the opposite direction do not have to stop, Limani said.
For the portion of Wednesday’s effort that was monitored by members of the news media, police did not issue any citations.