HAMLIN, W.Va. –West Virginia State Police boarded school buses in six counties Wednesday to crack down on drivers who fail to stop for school buses.
Troopers joined one driver each in Boone, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo and Wayne counties while other troopers followed to catch motorists who failed to heed the flashing bus lights and stop sign arm. Two of six troopers witnessed bus violations and issued citations to a driver in WayneCounty and a driver in Mingo County, according to Capt. Dave Nelson, commander of the six-county Troop 5 Headquarters.
“That’s a good sign,” Nelson said, “however the desired number is zero.”
The goal of the program is not to punish drivers but to educate them on the importance of obeying the school bus stop signals so that children are safe, Nelson said.
A survey of county transportation directors by the West Virginia Department of Education in April found that on a single day as many as 600 motorists illegally pass a stopped school bus. The survey showed that at least some of the illegal passing occurred on the right side of the bus, the same side children exit and enter the bus.
“Such behavior endangers not only our students and bus drivers but other motorists and pedestrians,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “I commend the West Virginia State Police for its efforts to enforce the law and keep our children and others safe.”
Drivers who fail to stop when a school bus stops and flashes its warning lights face a fine up to $500 or up to six months in jail or both as well as a 30-day suspension of their driver’s license. Drivers who cause an injury face up to three years in prison; drivers who kill someone could be put in prison for up to 10 years. Penalties and license suspensions are enhanced for subsequent violations.
The West Virginia Legislature strengthened state law in 2010 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.
West Virginia State Police and the state Department of Education are working together to continue the bus law enforcement effort and hope to expand the program statewide in the future.
Violations or concerns can be reported to local State Police detachments or the Troop 5 Headquarters in Hamlin at 304-792-7174. For more information, contact the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.
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