Rowan Co. law enforcement officials put heads together to educate motorists about traffic laws around school buses; nearly a dozen complaints filed recently

Morehead News, Dec. 20, 2016

Complaints filed against motorists who break bus laws
By MEGAN SMEDLEY

Community officials are working diligently to keep county children safe during their bus rides to and from school.

At a meeting held last Friday, Ashley Adkins, assistant county attorney; Capt. Kyle Callahan, Morehead Police Department; and Mark Cline and Jim Stamper from the Rowan County Sheriff's Office talked about the safety of students riding buses.

This meeting was sparked by the number of motorists who pass bus drivers when the driver has the bus stopped and the stop sign engaged. This violates Kentucky statute about passing stopped school or church buses.

“We don't want it to be because someone is hurt that this is brought up,” says Janie Davenport, transportation director for the district.

Davenport was pleased by the outcome of Friday's meeting.

“All guest speakers were supportive and interested in working with the district to help get the word out to the public. We were pleased and excited to see that support,” says Guy Griffin, the district's compliance coordinator.

“The guest speakers were excited and gave up their time to speak with drivers. After the meeting, we had positive feedback, and everyone felt like something was going to be done,” Davenport added.

In 2015, only 220 motorists statewide were ticketed for running bus stop signs. Since last Friday, 11 complaints have been turned in to the county attorney's office in Rowan County alone.

Adkins developed an incident report for drivers to fill out in the event someone runs bus stop signs. The form includes information such as the date and location of the incident, vehicle and driver description, and license plate number.

If a complaint is turned in to the county attorney's office, that office prepares a formal complaint that is signed by the bus driver, and the driver/owner of the vehicle is served with a ticket.

Griffin says complaints could end up in court.

Motorists who violate this law will be fined a minimum of $100 or required to spend 30 days in jail, or both.

“Our goal is not to give out tickets. It is to educate drivers and protect students,” says Griffin.

“This is a safety issue for every person's child that is on a bus,” says Davenport. “Every driver would be devastated if something happened to a child. Our drivers are protective of the students on their bus.”

Only 10 percent of bus-related deaths happen with students on a bus. The other 90 percent happen outside the bus.

Rowan County has 43 regular routes and seven midday routes each day, with buses collectively traveling over 5,000 miles per day.

Rowan County buses pick up over 2,500 students one way each day.

It is recommended that motorists remain at least a car's length away from a stopped bus, but Davenport says it is preferable that motorists stay back a couple of car lengths.

Griffin added rear engine buses prevent bus drivers from seeing cars through back glass. If bus mirrors are not visible, the bus driver cannot see the vehicle behind them.

Motorists should stop when the eight-way lights (yellow lights) are flashing.

Before children cross in front of a bus, bus drivers are instructed to look for oncoming traffic, look again, and then motion for kids to cross.

Many bus drivers let students off on the right side of the road to prevent them from crossing roadways.

The Department of Education has encouraged districts to do stop sign awareness, along with the annual update training, and quarterly safety meetings.

Davenport says the district's goal is to make the public aware so students can stay safe.

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