Operation Safe Stop

QCSD, local police and Levy School Bus Co. working together for School Bus Safety Week.
Posted on 10/17/2019
Image showing 10-foot danger zone around a school bus.By Gary Weckselblatt

On Wednesday, October 23, the Quakertown Community School District, local police and the Levy School Bus Co. will be taking part in Operation Safe Stop as part of School Bus Safety Week.

Operation Safe Stop is a public awareness and enforcement effort to educate the motoring public that passing a stopped school bus, when children are loading or unloading, is both dangerous and illegal.

Police will be monitoring “hot spots,” areas where motorists are known to disobey Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law, which requires drivers to stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended.

That’s considered the Danger Zone -- the area on all sides of the bus where students are in the most danger of not being seen by the driver (10 feet in front of the bus where the driver may be too high to see a student, 10 feet on either side of the bus where a student may be in the driver’s blind spot, and the area behind the school bus).

Pennsylvania School Bus Stopping Law

Motorists must stop when they are behind the bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. This includes undivided highways, such as Route 309, for example.

“The public needs to be reeducated,” said Bona Gerhart, a bus driver trainer for Levy. “Operation Safe Stop is a coordinated event. “Some people are just ignorant of what the protocol is.”

District School Resource Officers Bob Lee and Brian Hendrzak said there will be a significant police presence on Wednesday during both morning and afternoon bus runs. Police may even be passengers on buses “to get a bird’s-eye view” of whether motorists are adhering to safe driving laws, Officer Lee said. “This is about the safety of our kids and bus drivers. It’s definitely a concern.”

“My advice would be to make sure you’re extra vigilant around any stopped school bus,” Officer Hendrzak said.

Most of the reports regarding motorists illegally driving past a stopped school bus are submitted by bus drivers. Should a motorist withness a violation, police recommend that you call your local police department with this information: license plate, gender of driver, color and model of vehicle.

Richland Township Police have a non-emergency number, 215-328-8515. The non-emergency number for Bucks County Police Dispatch is 215-795-2931.

The penalties for this type of violation, if convicted: $250 fine plus $35 surcharge (Act 159 of 2018), five points on your driving record, 60-day license suspension.

The District and Levy have partnered on safety technology in the past. Stop-arm cameras are now being considered. These cameras act as a witness to motorists running a school bus stop sign, by capturing images of license plates and the face of the driver.

In QCSD, approximately 4,400 of 5,100 students - about 85 percent - are eligible to ride the bus, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes as the safest vehicle for students to ride to and from school.

The greatest risk to a student isn’t when they’re on a bus, according to NHTSA, but approaching or leaving one. Agency statistics show that from 2008 to 2017, there were 264 school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes. The majority of those students weren’t on the bus; 203 were either walking, waiting for the bus, biking, or in another vehicle.

By comparison, four to six school-age students die each year on school transportation vehicles, less than 1 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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