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Law enforcement agencies warn to stop for school buses or face the consequences

school bus stop arm
Posted at 7:57 AM, Aug 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-10 07:57:08-04

JAMESTOWN — Unsafe driving is a top concern for Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Marc Mitalski.

He starts his days before sunrise, patrolling the streets, to keep your children out of harms way.

“We are out following buses from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then again 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. watching for stop arm violations," Deputy Mitalski said.

His agency is a part of the Boone County Traffic Safety Partnership, which works to ensure that students remain safe when traveling to and from school.

BCTSP is also made up of the Jamestown Police Department, Lebanon Police Department, Thorntown Police Department, Whitestown Police Department and Zionsville Police Department.

“The buses are coming to a stop, picking up or dropping off kids, depending on if it’s the beginning or the end of the school day. When the yellow lights come on, we need traffic to start yielding to that, knowing that a stop is coming. When the red lights come on, we wanna make sure no kids get hit in the crosswalks when they’re loading or unloading," he said.

More than 200 agencies across the state are participating in the back-to-school Stop Arm Violation Enforcement campaign or SAVE.

Indiana Criminal Justice Institute Executive Director Devon McDonald says the program is made possible through funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This year we’ve got about $680,000 that we are utilizing to fund a little over 200 agencies, for over time patrols on bus routes. What we’re trying to do is to increase awareness around those issues," McDonald said.

An Indiana Department of Education survey found that there are about 2,000 of these violations a day across the state.

That could rack up to more than 376,000 violations in a school year.

“Every year it’s a little different. Unfortunately usually we do see a little over that 2,000 mark for that one day survey. Unfortunately in 2022, we were up a little bit from 2021, but that also goes along with national trends," he said.

Over in Hancock County, Prosecutor Brent Eaton says it’s important to remember the legal consequences.

“That could be charged not as an infraction of traffic offense, but as a crime. It can be charged as a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable up to a year in jail. It can be charged as a felony, depending on if somebody was injured or property was damaged," Eaton said.

If you hurt someone during a violation, it’s a Level 6 felony, punishable by six months to two-and-a-half years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

If you kill someone, it’s a Level 5 felony, carrying a one-to six-year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in fines.

“It can also carry a license suspension — anywhere from 90 days up to a year, depending upon the facts," he said.

Officials also want to remind you to avoid distractions like being on your cell phone and watch out for children in the roads.