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Back-to-school means more kids on the road, more police watching drivers

By Elizabeth Gabriel, IPB News | Published on in Education, Transportation
During one day in April 2022, Indiana school bus drivers reported 2,041 stop-arm violations, according to the National School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey. - Dylan Peers McCoy/WFYI
As classes resume across the state, advocates and officials are raising awareness about students’ safety when traveling to and from school. This month more than 200 law enforcement and local agencies will participate in the Stop Arm Violation Enforcement campaign to prevent traffic accidents near schools and residential areas.

The initiative, which is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, aims to prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses. Police officers across the state will implement enforcement strategies such as high-visibility patrols and police spotters on buses.

“Drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus or speed in a school zone need to be held accountable,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement. “We owe it to our kids to make sure they get home safely. Every driver needs to do their part by paying attention, slowing down and protecting school children and buses.”

School bus traffic violations in Indiana 

This campaign comes after several accidents and collisions involving Indiana students near schools and bus stops in the past year, such as 7-year-old Hannah Crutchfield, who was killed in a crash while walking home from her Indianapolis school.

This past April, 6,665 bus drivers from 195 Indiana school districts participated in a one-day observational survey to see how many traffic violations would occur. On that day, drivers counted 2,041 stop-arm violations across the state, according to the National School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey.

In the previous one-day survey in 2019, bus drivers reported 2,653 illegal passes in Indiana.

“The fact that we still have people willing to put students and bus drivers at risk is the reason this campaign is necessary,” Devon McDonald, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s executive director, said in a statement. “Still, law enforcement can’t be everywhere, so drivers need to do the right thing and exercise caution around buses. Students’ lives depend on it.”

What drivers should do when they see a school bus stopping:

  • Slow down and prepare to stop when the overhead lights on a school bus are flashing yellow.
  • Drivers are required to stop on all roads when the bus’s stop arm extends and its lights turn red.
  • Only vehicles traveling in the same direction as the school bus are required to stop on highways divided by a physical barrier.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute suggests motorists allow extra time for their commutes, be mindful of speed limits, avoid distractions and watch for children near schools and residential areas.

If you disregard a school bus stop arm, violators could pay a fine of up to $10,000 and have their license suspended for up to 90 days for the first offense, or up to one year for the second offense. An offense that causes an injury or death is a felony.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.