-Back to school safety for motorists
With schools open, it's time for everyone, motorists, parents, educators and students, to improve their traffic safety practices when driving in neighborhoods or school zones. Slow down, obey all the traffic laws and speed limits while being alert and on the look-out for children in the mornings and afternoons going to and from school.
Motorists are urged to watch for:
- Children walking in the street, especially where there are no sidewalks.
- Children playing and/or gathering near bus stops.
- Children arriving late for the bus, who may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
- Children standing, walking or biking to school in/or near driveways when backing out or leaving a garage.
- Children who may be in a hurry to get to school and may not be thinking about getting there safely.
With school back in session, officials from the Clay County Sheriff's Department want to remind motorists about the laws concerning school buses and urge them to use caution while traveling.
"Motorists think that with only double yellow lines on the road that they do not have to stop for a school bus, but they do," Chief Deputy Doug Barr said about the need for increased patrols scheduled in the mornings and afternoons to catch offenders.
Indiana Code: 9-21-12-3 states that vehicles approaching a school bus stopped on a roadway must use due caution at all times for the safety of children boarding or leaving the school bus. It also states that the vehicle is required to stop on roadways with two or more lanes unless there is a physical barrier, natural or constructed to impede vehicular traffic, which divides the two lanes and seperates the school bus from oncoming traffic. These vehicles need not stop, but must proceed with caution considering the safety of the children boarding or leaving the school bus.
Even with the increased patrols by the Sheriff's department, drivers continue to violate the law thinking that without being seen by law enforcement they will not be caught. That is not the case.
"A motorist does not have to be caught by authorities to be charged with the offense," Barr said. "School bus drivers can report the plate numbers of reckless drivers to the Prosecutor's Office."
Indiana Code: 9-21-12-1 states that a person driving a vehicle that meets or overtakes from any direction a school bus stopped on a roadway with the arm signal extended, and/or proceeds before the arm signal is no longer extended violates the law. It also states that the driver of the vehicle is presumed to be the owner of the vehicle involved in the violation.
It is because of this law that school bus drivers can report the infraction, license plate number, vehicle description, whether the driver is male or female, location and time of a reckless driving incident that endangers the school bus or the safety of children entering or exiting the bus to the bus dispatch office.
Clay Community Schools Transportation Director Frank Misner told The Brazil Times that bus drivers deal with these types of situations daily while school is in session.
"It's a common occurance for us," Misner said. "Bus drivers try to get the license plate numbers of reckless drivers, but it is not always possible."
But when a school bus driver does get a plate number, which happens 10 to 15 times a year, a detailed letter is the generated from Misner's office and sent to the Prosecutor's Office.
This information is used to determine whether a further investigation into the incident is required.
If so, the Prosecutor will request that a law enforcement officer be dispatched to interview the bus driver for an official statement and report. This information is used to determine the number and severity of charges against the owner of the vehicle whose license plate was taken at the accident.
A summons is sent to the owner of the vehicle to appear in court for whatever charge or charges deemed appropriate from the investigation and the Prosecutor.
The schedule of fines and costs for violation of passing a school bus is $111 per offense, other applicable misdemeanor charges have various fees and fines according to the severity of the charge.