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Peru police launch bus safety campaign

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

PERU — After three Fulton County kids were killed and one hurt Oct. 30, the Peru Police Department is cracking down on school bus safety with their “STOP reckless driving” campaign, which kicked off Tuesday morning.

According to a PPD press release, the department will be utilizing funding from Operation Pull Over to catch and enforce stop arm violations in order to aid officers in their vigilance at school zone and bus stop patrols.

“These saturation patrols and undercover patrols aim to reduce the frequency of these violations to ensure children make it to and from school safely,” the department said.

It has not been determined how long the campaign will last, according to PPD Officer and Traffic Safety Coordinator Keith Smith, but citizens can expect at least two or three weeks of daily overtime enforcement.

“In addition to this, however, our regularly scheduled road officers will continue to provide extra patrols for these violators and other school safety violations (speeding in school zones, etc.) as they always have,” Smith wrote.

Smith felt now was the right time for the campaign after the recent tragedy in Fulton County as well as six other accidents across the nation involving vehicle vs. pedestrian at bus stops just last week.

“The shocking thing to me was that even despite the large amount of media coverage regarding these collisions, Peru officers still received reports from the PCS Transportation Director that people continued to pass school buses with extended stop arms,” Smith wrote.

State law makes it illegal for anyone to pass a school bus with the stop arm extended, fail to stop before reaching a school bus with a stop arm extended or proceed before the stop arm is no longer extended.

“Drivers from both directions must stop for these stop arms on all roadways except those divided by a physical barrier or an unimproved (grass usually) median” Smith wrote. “This means that even on W. Main St. where there is a center turn lane and even if the bus is pulled over along the curb: if the stop arm is extended, all vehicles must stop!”

Depending on the situation and severity, Peru Police say failure to comply with these laws can lead to an individual receiving a ticket or being charged with a misdemeanor.

While Smith said there is never a valid reason to pass a school bus with their stop arm extended, statistics across all boards show not everyone agrees.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided statistics that stated, between 2006 and 2015, there were 1,313 people killed in school transportation related crashes.

“Of these 1,313 people, 301 (or about 23 percent) were children under the age of 18 years old,” the press release said.

More recent statistics from the Indiana Department of Education reported that in one day in 2018, 3,082 vehicles passed a school bus with its stop arm extended.

“Peru Community Schools’ Transportation Director Dave Frushour estimates that he receives about five to six complaints from local bus drivers each day regarding vehicles failing to stop for stop arms as required,” the release said.

In an effort to alleviate the reckless driving issue, the PPD encourages drivers to leave their house earlier to ensure safe driving speeds, refrain from texting and driving and keep their eyes and mind focused on the road ahead especially during the start and end of the school day.

Smith also hopes citizens realize the importance of stopping for school buses in regards to public safety with this campaign. It doesn’t matter if the driver can see children around the bus or not, what’s important is that the stop arm is extended for a purpose which is to keep kids safe.

“I hope that citizens will realize that the average bus stops for probably a minute or less, and that negligible amount of time is not worth endangering children’s lives,” Smith wrote.

Individuals who witness a driver failing to stop for a school bus stop arm can call dispatch at (765) 473-5522 to report the driver with a vehicle description and location.