Operation Safe Stop puts spotlight on stopping for school buses

·3 min read

Oct. 21—The only misbehavior on the road Wednesday morning during a state police ride-along on a Greater Latrobe school bus was from a deer and three raccoons.

No motorists broke the law while Trooper Brandon Boyd was on board, but many of the youngsters catching a ride to school were thrilled to see two policemen — Boyd in the front seat and Trooper Nicholas Loughner following behind.

"There's a police car behind us!" one of the students exclaimed.

The pair of troopers, and others around the area, participated in Operation Safe Stop by riding along or monitoring bus routes in an effort to make sure motorists were obeying the laws. Patrol troopers can check up on bus routes any day of the year when they spot one transporting students, according to Trooper Steve Limani.

"We didn't have any citations that were written (Wednesday)," he said.

But if Boyd had been on DMJ Transportation driver Ray Thomas' route on a recent day, he might've spotted a motorcycle Thomas said drove past the flashing red lights and stop sign while Thomas was picking up his first elementary student.

Thomas departed the Unity terminal at 6:25 a.m. Wednesday for his first route of the morning around the Twin Lakes area in Unity. He greeted each middle and high school student by name as they boarded in the dark under a full moon with little other traffic.

After a short break and sunrise, it was time for the elementary students, who were much more boisterous than their older counterparts. Thomas headed toward Crabtree and there was more traffic, all of which stopped as he picked up the younger charges.

When bus drivers are involved in an incident during which a motorist doesn't stop, they have to fill out a report with as much information as possible and pass it along to the state, said Mark Kraynick, DMJ Transportation safety coordinator. From there, state police determine if there is enough information to proceed with a citation.

Kraynick said he has noticed a marginal increase lately in the number of reports from drivers. Disobeying the stop sign ultimately could be a safety issue for children who are getting on or off buses, sometimes in the dark, he said.

State police said drivers must stop at least 10 feet from a school bus that has the stop sign extended and red lights flashing, regardless of whether they are behind or approaching the bus. When a school bus is picking up or dropping off a child at an intersection, other drivers should stop until the flashing red lights are turned off.

Violations carry a $250 fine and 60-day license suspension, police said.

Drivers separated by a physical barrier, such as a median or guide rail, from a school bus picking up or dropping off students do not have to stop.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .