School bus safety important as new school year about to launch

Law enforcement warns drivers to slow down and be aware of their surroundings.

It’s almost that time of year when kids will be heading back to school, and Prosecutor Beth Schroeder is urging drivers to take precautions as school buses return to the roads.

In Indiana, it’s against the law for motorists to pass a bus that’s stopped and has its red lights flashing
and stop-arm extended. This applies to all roads with one exception: motorists who are on a highway
that is divided by a barrier – such as a cable barrier, concrete wall or grassy median. Motorists are then required to stop only if they are traveling in the same direction as the school bus.

Unfortunately, school bus stop-arm violations are all too common in Indiana and can lead to fatal
results. Prosecutor Schroeder reminds the community to slow down around school buses and in school zones and to always make a full stop when the school bus stop-arm is extended, and the red lights are flashing.

“For kids and our community to be safe, we must all take this seriously. Pay attention and slow down,” she stated in a press release.

In April 2022, a national survey found that almost a third of buses recorded stop-arm violations. During the one-day survey, 6,665 bus drivers from 195 school districts took part in an observational survey where the drivers counted stop-arm violations throughout the day in Indiana. In total, drivers recorded an unbelievable 2,041 violations, according to the National School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey.

Ignoring school bus stop-arms is not only against the law, but it can be deadly. Several school-age
children lost their lives during the 2021-22 school year due to negligent and reckless drivers.

Disregarding a school bus stop-arm is a Class A Infraction, which could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a license suspension for up to 90 days on the first offense or up to a year on the second. Recklessly passing a stop-arm is a crime which could result in jail time. Further punishment could come if injuries or death occur as a result of the reckless passing. If someone is killed, the charge could be reckless homicide – a felony punishable by years in prison. If charged with one of these misdemeanor or felony offenses, the Court can impose a safe school fee between $200 and $1,000.

During the 2022-2023 school year in Dubois County, there were 10 misdemeanor cases filed involving recklessly passing a stop-arm violation. Also, during that school year in Dubois County, there were 48 infraction tickets filed for stop-arm violations.

Many school buses in Dubois County have cameras that can record stop-arm violations. The safe school fees that are collected as part of criminal cases (not infractions) can be applied to the cost of these cameras.

“Law enforcement uses various safety methods to keep our community safe when school starts back up, but we as Hoosiers need to be diligent for our kids, too,” said Prosecutor Beth Schroeder.