HARRISBURG — On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Department of Education released their findings from an initiative to investigate traffic violations near schools.
Operation Safe Stop, an annual school bus enforcement and education initiative was held on Oct. 20 this year. The data revealed that participating school districts and law enforcement agencies reported 252 violations of the law, up from the 120 reported last year.
The initiative is a cooperation with local and state police departments, school districts and pupil transportation providers to raise public awareness about the consequences of improper passing of school buses and reduce occurrences.
One statistic was encouraging, as convictions for breaking the School Bus Stopping Law decreased from 746 in 2019 to 314 in 2020.
“Although there were less convictions of the School Bus Stopping Law last year, one incident of passing a school bus is one too many, which is why we’re reminding motorists of its importance,” said PennDOT Deputy Secretary Kurt Myers. “With additional challenges such as darkness coinciding with more of our students’ school bus ride times and the distraction of the quickly approaching holiday season, it is important that motorists remain vigilant while sharing the road with school buses and students,”
The School Bus Stopping Law requires motorists approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended, to stop at least 10 feet from the bus. Motorists approaching from all directions are required to stop. However, motorists who encounter a school bus stopping on the opposite side of a divided highway are not required to stop when lanes of the highway are clearly separated by a divider, such as a concrete barrier or grassy median.
“The penalties if convicted of disobeying the law are a $250 fine, five points on your driving record and a 60-day license suspension,” said Corporal Zeina Black, Permits and Bus Safety Unit Supervisor with the Pennsylvania State Police. “But even worse than these penalties, a tragedy could occur if either a driver or a student is not paying attention to their surroundings.”
Some safety tips for students to remember while waiting for or loading and unloading the bus include:
- Get to the school bus stop five minutes early so you won´t have to run across the road to catch the bus.
- When waiting for the school bus, stay away from traffic.
- Line up at least five giant steps away from the curb or the roadway to wait for the school bus.
- Never run after the school bus if it has already left the school bus stop.
- Never push when getting on or off the school bus.
“Student safety at school bus stops is a top priority that requires the cooperation and attention of all motorists,” said John Kashatus, School Safety Education Advisor, Department of Education. “Local school districts work hard to identify the safest locations possible for school bus stops and to train their staff. But to ensure that students remain out of harm’s way, we urge all drivers to be attentive and watch for the flashing lights of school buses and always stop when students are getting on and off.”
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