Quick quiz – True or False:
All traffic must stop when approaching an intersection with a school bus with its red flashing lights and stop arm extended, whether the intersection is or is not marked with a stop sign?
If the answer (which can be found at the end of the article) is not immediate, PenDOT, along with the Montgomery County Department of Health (MCDH), state law enforcement agencies and school districts would like to change that.
In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 22 – 26, local law enforcement agencies participated in the 16th-annual “Operation Safe Stop.”
According to a PennDOT press release, Operation Safe Stop encourages school districts across the state to document any illegal school bus passes occurring on their routes during the day, and follow up by providing the violators’ information to law enforcement agencies.
Local police officers also participated in this awareness campaign by either following behind or riding on school buses, or by watching, in hidden locations, for any illegal passes.
During the early morning of Oct. 24, Lower Providence Police were invited for the first time to participate in Operation Safe Stop for Methacton School District.
Representing the police department were School Resource Officer Mike Nastasi and Traffic Safety Division Officer Dan McGuffin.
“It was good that we participated this year,” Nastasi said.
The officers both followed in their police cars on two school bus routes, one to Arcola Intermediate and the other to Woodland Elementary.
According to Nastasi, the idea was for the officers to have limited visibility behind the big, yellow school bus. Nastasi followed closely in a marked police vehicle, while McGuffin completed the caravan in an unmarked police car.
On both trips, no one was given an on-the-spot citation for violating the school-bus stop law (see media gallery above for details). Nastasi said that this was typical for motorists in the Methacton community.
“Today, like a lot of days, motorists stopped at their own volition,” Nastasi said. “It’s a relatively simple equation: Red means stop.”
Nastasi said that most motorists heed the school buses’ flashing red lights and extended stop arm. He added that violators of the school bus stopping law are typically motorists that are distracted, emotional (angry) or are hurried.
While violations do occur from time to time, Nastasi said that the Methacton School District has not experienced any severe injuries due to illegally passing motorists. However, according to the PennDOT release, each year, children are injured or killed by drivers passing stopped school buses.
The penalties are stiff for violators:
- 60-Day Driver’s License Suspension
- 5 points on driving record
- $250 fine.
PennDOT further reports that over 1,000 motorists do not obey the School Bus Stopping Law every year.
Nastasi also credits the low count for such incidents in Lower Providence due to the police department’s dedication to traffic concerns, and making the roads as safe as possible for all motorists.
“We try to be pretty active,” McGuffin said.
According to McGuffin, the Lower Providence police officers pay particular attention to monitoring both school-bus stopping and school-zone speeding throughout the entire school year.
He said that Lower Providence Police officers can be found in school zones, watching for motorists that break the 15-mile-per-hour flashing sign.
“Really, there’s no reason anyone needs to speed through this area,” McGuffin said. “If they see us in a school zone, they tend to think about it.”
Oh, and the answer to the above school bus stopping law question: True.