Accidents speak louder than words. The same day West Virginia education officials and law enforcement announced the new crackdown on motorists who illegally pass school buses, an 8-year-old elementary student was struck and injured after exiting her school bus. The Nicholas County girl suffered a broken leg and foot, and required surgery.
“This accident illustrates how serious this problem is,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “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.”
As part of School Bus Safety Week, held nationally Oct. 22 to 26, state troopers rode along on afternoon bus routes to catch any drivers who fail to stop for school buses. Troopers witnessed multiple violations on 55 percent of the targeted bus routes in Cabell, Jefferson, Hampshire, Harrison, Kanawha, Marshall, Mercer, Raleigh and Wood counties.
Altogether, police issued seven citations and one warning ticket to motorists who ignored the school bus’ flashing red lights and extended stop arm, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Education.
Results of the 2012 NASDPTS survey of county transportation directors found that about 450 motorists illegally passed stopped school buses on the day of the count in West Virginia. Mercer County tracked 88 violations, including 12 at a single stop, while Kanawha had 37 and Cabell, 35.
“These eye-opening statistics show why I am grateful that the state police and other law enforcement agencies have joined forces with us in an effort to catch violators in the act as well as raise awareness,” Marple said.
She also acknowledged other partners in the safety sweep, the second in six months, including the Charleston Police Department, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
“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 [our] most valuable resource — our children,” said State Police Col. C. R. Smithers.
In a recent PSA, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin petitioned the public to join the safety campaign and help protect the estimated 230,000 children statewide who ride the yellow bus daily. On the average school day, their lives are threatened, he said, because about 600 drivers don’t stop when the red lights flash and the stop arm comes out.
“Don’t be the reason a child is hurt or even killed. When you see the red lights flashing on a school bus, be smart, be patient and stop. Or the next flashing lights you see might be blue.”