Chesterton Tribune



Local PDs get grant to crack down on school bus stoparm scofflaws

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Ignoring an extended stop-arm on a school bus is a particularly egregious form of scofflawism.

It may be easy for distracted drivers to blow a stop sign at an intersection, or to lose track of their speed. But school buses are big and yellow, and when stopped to load or unload children their warning lights are activated and their stop-arms prominently displayed. You just can’t miss ‘em.

So it takes a special kind of stupid recklessness to drive past or around a stop-arm and put kids’ lives in danger just to get to Dunkin Donuts.

And yet it happens all the time, depending on a school bus driver’s route. Some 2,000 stop-arm violations have been tracked in the State of Indiana this year alone, and Duneland School bus drivers may see them occur two or three or four times in a week. Sometimes two or three times in a day.

Which is why the Porter County Traffic Safety Partnership--comprised of virtually every law enforcement agency in the county--will be using a $12,000 grant awarded by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to put extra officers on the road whose sole mission will be to watch for stop-arm violations, beginning here in Duneland on the first day of school, Wednesday, Aug. 14. The blitz will last every school day for several weeks.

Commander Joe Hall of the Valparaiso Police Department announced the blitz--part of a statewide campaign dubbed S.A.V.E., Stop Arm Violations Enforcement, whose costs are being defrayed by some $380,000 in total ICJI grants--at a press conference on Monday at the Duneland School Corporation’s bus barn. On hand were officers from the Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor, and Portage PDs and the Porter County Sheriff’s Police; Duneland Schools Superintendent Chip Pettit and Assistant Superintendent Robert McDermott; Director of Elementary Curriculum Christy Jarka; Director of Transportation Cathy Forszt; Operations Coordinator Kim Balas; school bus drivers Faye Maslowski, Kristin Coburn, Colleen Wilson, and Daniel Dolph; Porter County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Armando Salinas; and Lance Grubbs of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

As Hall noted, the effort is an all-hands collaboration among the schools, the bus drivers, and law enforcement “to support and provide safe school bus routes” and will feature “high-visibility and on-the-spot enforcement with officers following buses” on routes selected by the Duneland School Corporation as being prone to stop-arm scofflawism.

Which routes? Eight of them in Duneland, Chesterton Assistant Police Chief Dave Lohse said, including U.S. Highway 20, Ind. 149, U.S. Highway 6, and Meridian Road.

Officers being paid overtime will be tasked to the blitz on both morning and afternoon routes--6 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 6 p.m.--with the number of officers involved varying from PD to PD. The Chesterton PD will place four on the road in the mornings and five in the afternoon; Porter PD, two in the morning and two to three in the afternoon; Burns Harbor PD, two both in the morning and the afternoon; and the PCSP, four both in the morning and the afternoon.

Drivers tempted to ignore an extended stop-arm, despite the daily presence of officers over the next several weeks looking for them to do precisely that, should know this: as of July 1, a stop-arm violation now constitutes a form of reckless driving, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine and up to 365 days in jail. Hit and injure a child, and the offense is bumped to a Level 6 felony punishable by up to 30 months. Hit and God forbid kill a child, and it’s a Level 5 felony punishable by up to six years.

Salinas noted that his office will work closely with law enforcement during the blitz and intends to “evaluate violations on a fact-sensitive, case-by-case basis.”

Motorists should know this too: newer school buses are equipped with cameras capable of shooting license plates. That information is then being forwarded to the local PD for investigatory purposes. And Duneland PDs are pursuing those investigations vigorously.

Forszt, for her part, told the Chesterton Tribune that the Duneland Schools works carefully with all of its bus drivers to train them in the safe loading and unloading of children. But, she added, parents need to talk to their kids as well about the things to do, and not to do, at school bus stops.


Posted 8/13/2019




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