The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020

OSHP, schools promote school bus safety

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert County school districts and the Van Wert Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol are providing information on school bus safety prior to National School Bus Safety Week next week, October 19-23.

On Wednesday, Lt. Jonathan Gray and Sgt. Adam Brincefield of the Patrol were at Van Wert City Schools to talk about school bus safety.

“School Bus Safety Week is obviously important because it’s our community’s children,” Lt. Gray said, adding, though, that in the last couple of years, there have been several high-profile cases in northwest Ohio involving children being struck in a school safety zone. “We still, every week, we get reports from our local area schools that there are people running the red lights on school buses.”

The Van Wert Post commander reminded motorists that they need to pay extra attention during the time school buses are out — on normal school days 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 2:30-4:30 p.m. — and asked that motorists use extra caution when they see a school bus.

“When you see a bus, use that as a reminder to pay a bit more attention, and to put down your phone and anything else that could take your attention from the wheel,” he said, noting that there are a lot of things going on in people’s vehicles as they drive, from phones to other people in the vehicle.

“When you see a bus, you need to be prepared for the school bus to stop,” Lt. Gray said.

“It goes back to basic driver education,” Sgt. Brincefield added, noting that it’s much easier today, with school bus stop arm cameras, to convict a motorist who runs a school bus with its red lights on.

Penalties for a school bus safety violation include a mandatory court appearance, a $500 fine, a possible driver’s license suspension.

“It’s not just about safety,” Lt. Gray said. “It can impact your pocketbook or wallet as well.”

The Van Wert Post commander noted that, in 2019, there were many avoidable tragedies involving school children being struck by motorists while they were getting on or off a school bus. In February, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were just over 20 crashes involving school buses, with nearly 75 school bus or school safety zone violations reported in northwest Ohio.

The post commander said the OSHP encourages troopers on patrol to follow school buses when they see them to spot safety violations and provide a deterrent to motorists.

Sgt. Brincefield noted that a motorist was cited earlier this year by a trooper following a Lincolnview school bus on Lincoln Highway when the motorist ran a stop sign at an intersection in front of the bus to get across ahead of it. So far this year, there have been eight motorists cited for school zone violations.

State law requires that motorists approaching a stopped school bus letting children on or off on a road with fewer than four lanes must stop at least 10 feet from the front or rear of the bus, and may not proceed until the school bus begins moving again, or until signaled by the bus driver to proceed.

Motorists approaching a school bus going the opposite way on a road with four or more lanes do not have to stop, but should proceed with caution.

School zones are another area that sees safety violations, Lt. Gray said, noting that motorists need to travel 20 mph or less in marked school safety zones, whether lights are flashing or not, when children are traveling to or from school, or when children are at recess near a street or road.

Moreover, anyone traveling 36 mph or more in a school safety zone could see additional penalties than those going slower than that.

Ohio State Patrol officers Sgt. Adam Brincefield at Lt. Jonathan Gray are shown with VWCS Assistant Superintendent Bill Clifton and two VWCS bus drivers. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

POSTED: 10/15/20 at 7:49 am. FILED UNDER: News