Passing Stopped School Buses Still a Problem in Ohio County | News, Sports, Jobs

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WHEELING – Two recent incidents regarding school buses and passing motorists have Ohio County Schools officials concerned that drivers still aren’t heeding bus warnings and safety laws.

One scary happening took place along a stretch of W.Va. 2 / River Road between Wheeling and Warwood, explained Gabe Wells, communications coordinator for Ohio County Schools.

He said it isn’t known whether the driver just wasn’t paying attention, but the driver failed to stop for a bus that was pulled over to let off students. Students were crossing the highway at the time and the last of them was forced to race to the other side to avoid being hit by the vehicle, Wells continued. The driver, noticing their mistake, then backed up to let the children pass.

The second account actually involved three separate vehicles and drivers, he said.

A school bus was stopped in Elm Grove along US 40 near Riesbecks with its arm containing a stop sign fully extended, Wells said. Each of the three vehicles drove around the stopped bus.

“We are fortunate we have cameras on our buses (that capture the infractions),” Wells said. “It’s frustrating, and it’s also scary. We want to implore people to pay attention to buses, lights and warning signals on the buses. “

West Virginia law states that motorists – even if in a four-lane highway situation – must stop driving while a bus is loading and unloading students. During this time, the buses’ red stop sign is out and red lights are flashing.

Wheeling police officers are investigating incidents where motorists have reportedly passed a stopped bus, according to Philip Shahl, public information officer for the Wheeling Police Department. And for those found guilty there is punishment, he added.

The first offense of passing a stopped school bus carries with it a minimum of a $ 500 fine, and a possible suspension of drivers license for up to 60 days. Further offenses have even stiffer penalties, Stahl continued. Drivers committing the offense multiple times can face up to a minimum $ 1,000 fine, as well as jail time.

Ohio County Schools and the Wheeling Police Department began the school year with a push to remind drivers to stop for stopped school buses.

“I don’t know if there has been an increase or decrease (in the number of incidents),” Stahl said. “I do know we have been investigating incidents and that they do have cameras on the buses. We investigate, and try to track down the driver and issue a citation if they have violated traffic code.

“We have a zero tolerance policy when passing the bus.”

Drivers also often forget there is a 15-miles-an-hour speed limit when driving through school zones, and citations are issued for breaking this law, Stahl added.

“It happens at the beginning of the year. People forget, ”he continued. “We do have officers, especially PROs (prevention resource officers) out there.”

David Crumm, operations director for Ohio County Schools, said the school district is still sharing information with law enforcement as needs have arisen.

“We still continue to have buses being passed,” he acknowledged. “The buses have bright red lights and signs on them. If you are out, and there is a question that you have to stop, just stop.

“Few places in Ohio County have a divided highway (where a driver wouldn’t be required to stop). If you are out, you have to stop, ”Crumm said.

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