CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Recent accidents involving school buses and motorists highlight the need to remind motorists to be cautious and follow the law at bus stops and schools.
A 12-year-old Nicholas County boy had to be hospitalized after being struck at a bus stop and a 17-year-old girl in Jefferson County was treated and released after being similarly hit.
“School bus transportation is the safest way to get children to school each day,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “Unfortunately, accidents do happen and when they do, they most often involve other motorists at bus stops. We must do everything we can to make sure our children are safe.”
West Virginia school buses travel more than 41 million miles each year, transporting about 230,000 students each day to school safely and reliably. Across the country, school buses provide more than 10 billion passenger trips each year.
The West Virginia Legislature strengthened the law last year with the adoption of legislation dubbed “Haven’s Law,” named for 6-year-old Haven McCarthy, who was killed in 2007 when she was hit by a car moments after getting off the school bus in Lincoln County. The motorist, who pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for illegally driving around a school bus, was fined $50 for the misdemeanor and placed on home confinement for one year.
Now, drivers who fail to stop when a school bus stops and flashes its warning lights can be charged with a felony. 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. The law also increases fines for drivers who violate the school bus safety laws and introduces the potential for drivers to lose their license.
School buses are by far the safest means of transportation. Still accidents do occur. Nationally, 131 pedestrians are killed and 46 bicyclists die every year on their way to or from school while 15 fatalities happen at school bus stops. In West Virginia there are more than 500 vehicles that illegally pass stopped school buses daily. That means there are over 90,000 times each year student safety is compromised because of the inappropriate actions of adults.
Motorists are reminded to pay close attention to school buses when they see them driving on the street, obey the law and teach children how to be safe when boarding and exiting the bus.
For more information, contact the Office of School Transportation at 304-558-2711, or the Office of Communications at 304-558-2699.