CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Nicholas County girl suffered a broken leg and foot Friday afternoon when she was struck by a motorist while crossing the street after getting off the school bus in Summersville. The accident occurred the same day the West Virginia Department of Education, law enforcement and others announced plans for a statewide bus safety awareness campaign. The 8-year-old is a student at Summersville Elementary.
“We are thankful that this incident was not more tragic,” state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family as she recovers from her injuries. The reality is a child was unnecessarily hurt.”
Witnesses said the accident occurred when a driver failed to stop for the school bus’ flashing red flights and extended stop arm. Such violations happen hundreds of times every school day in West Virginia, putting the lives of schoolchildren at risk of injury or death about 90,000 times each year.
To address the problem and in recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 22-26, the West Virginia Department of Education has teamed up with other state agencies, law enforcement, businesses and media to increase awareness. State Police, Charleston Police and other law enforcement will board buses statewide throughout the week in an effort to catch law breakers, Marple announced Friday. In addition, members of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association will post public service announcement posters at their convenience stores.
“School bus transportation is the safest way to get children to school each day,” Marple said. “Yet, when motorists fail to obey the law, they endanger the lives of our children, our drivers and themselves. We must do everything we can to make sure our children are safe.”
The police ride-a-longs mark the second time law enforcement have participated in a week-long effort to reduce the number of motorists who fail to stop when a school bus flashes its red lights and extends its stop arm. The West Virginia State Police, Charleston Police, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, West Virginia Media, the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association and others have joined the state Department of Education in increasing awareness about the dangers.
"The West Virginia State Police is pleased to be working with the Department of Education in an attempt to identify motorists who are displaying a willful disregard for the safety of our children,” said State Police Colonel C. R. "Jay" Smithers. “I am urging motorists to be aware of their surroundings and always use common sense behind the steering wheel of a vehicle.
Studies have proven that the most dangerous part of the school bus ride for children is when they get on and off the bus. In 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.
Drivers who fail to stop when a school bus stops and flashes its warning lights can be charged with a felony if their actions result in injury or death and also can lose their license. 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. Those who simply fail to stop can be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed up to six months.
For more information, contact the Office of Communication at 304-558-2699. Broadcast-ready public service announcements recorded by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as well as video and audio recorded by Superintendent Marple are available below: