extended stop-arm on a school bus is a particularly egregious form of
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
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.”
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
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.