PennDOT joins with area schools to promote National School Bus Safety Week

Blair County schools joined with state and local police today as part of a nationwide effort to promote school bus safety.
According to a PennDOT press release, police vehicles were scheduled to escort selected school buses on their routes today. The visibility of the police vehicles accompanying the buses was done to help enforce and raise awareness of the state’s school bus laws.
Selected buses in the Tyrone, Claysburg and Williamsburg school districts were escorted by state police from the Hollidaysburg barracks. Logan Township police covered buses from the Altoona Area School District and Allegheny Township police were scheduled to escort buses in the Hollidaysburg Area School District.
The event coincided with National School Bus Safety week, which runs through Oct. 23.
PennDOT District Nine spokesperson Kevin Stacey said safety is being stressed because “despite clear laws” and the issue being “talked about every school year, drivers still pass buses at inappropriate times.”
He indicated some drivers think it’s okay to pass a stopped bus if a vehicle is on a four-lane undivided highway going in the opposite direction. Stacey explained that is prohibited.
According to Pennsylvania law, unless there is a physical barrier dividing the travel lanes, drivers traveling in the opposite direction must stop when a bus’ red lights are flashing.
Also under the law, a driver must stop at least 10 feet before reaching a bus that has its red signal lights flashing. The vehicle may not proceed until children reach a place of safety and the bus’ red signal lights stop flashing.
The PennDOT press release said motorists convicted of failing to stop for a school bus are subject to a $100 fine plus costs, a 60-day suspension of their driver’s license and five points on their driving record.
“Loading and unloading is the safety focus when it comes to school buses,” said District 9 Executive Tom Pretash. “Motorists need to understand that the school bus laws are designed to keep kids safe, and they must be followed.”
PennDOT cited national statistics which show an average of 40 children lose their life each year in school bus-related crashes. Seventy five percent of the fatalities occurred during loading and unloading.
As part of the local effort, police and PennDOT worked with transportation managers from the different districts to determine which bus routes have a history of vehicle violations. Troopers and officers were to direct their efforts toward those routes.
“We’re very pleased that state and local law enforcement agencies are committing resources to this effort,” added Pretash.