FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne police will be watching closely to see whether motorists are stopping for school buses because bus drivers are reporting an increase in stop arm violations.
Although no school bus-related injuries have been reported this school year, driver awareness is the key to preventing such injuries from occurring, said officer Raquel Foster, police spokeswoman.
Foster said she has discussed bus safety issues with school transportation directors, and several said they’ve had complaints from bus drivers of motorists speeding past, even when the red Stop arm is out.
We run into this every year, and a lot of times it’s that people just don’t understand when they have to stop, she said. But it’s just a matter of time before you have a student who gets injured. We don’t want to see that happen.
Some of the city’s biggest problem areas include Illinois Road, Aboite Center Road, East Rudisill Boulevard, Spy Run Avenue and Hobson Road, which are undivided roadways with no barrier or median to separate lanes of oncoming traffic, Foster said.
Motorists traveling on divided roadways – those that have a barrier, median or grassy area separating oncoming traffic from both directions – are not required to stop unless they are traveling in the same direction as the stopped bus, but should proceed with caution, she said.
Violators can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. If a motorist causes bodily injury, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
At minimum, officers can issue a ticket for an infraction, Foster said. At most, if the driving is so reckless that they are endangering the children’s lives, they could make an arrest on site.
Foster said many motorists report they didn’t see the flashing lights, or that they thought the bus was preparing to turn.
This is their alert system to motorists that they are stopping, she said. When the flashing yellow lights come on, it’s equivalent to a yellow light on a stoplight. You need to reduce your speed and be prepared to stop.