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‘The safety of the kids come first’ : Grant program focuses on slashing reckless driving around school buses

Hamilton Co. Sheriff’s Office joins 200+ agencies participating in grant program
School bus patrols
Posted at 9:35 AM, Apr 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-24 13:14:31-04

HAMILTON COUNTY — Erin James is a school bus driver for the Hamilton Heights School Corporation. She’s been on a route around the northeast part of the county, including part of State Road 37, for seven years.

“30 seconds in not worth a child’s life,” James said in front of her bus.

The route James’ Bus 46 takes is considered one of the most problematic when it comes to reckless driving in school zones and around her bus. She recalls drivers frequently ignoring bus stop rules, including stop arm violations.

“Stop arm violations were getting worse for quite a while until they started shadowing us,” she said.

‘They’ are deputies like Sargent Kevin Crask with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. On Friday, he is following James during her morning pick-up, keeping an eye out for reckless driving — like stop-arm violations and speeding. WRTV tagged along.

WRTV went along with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office to see school bus safety patrols in action.

“We have officers doing it all the time now. We’ll pick different schools to follow, different buses to follow, different routes,” Crask said.

According to the Hamilton County Traffic Safety Partnership, more than 100 stop arm violations or citations were issued since October 2020 across the county.

-Stop Arm violations/citations issued from 10/1/2020-9/30/2021: Total- 71
-Stop Arm violations/citations issued from 10/1/2021-3/31/2022: Total- 36

The data is part of the reason why the sheriff’s office is stepping up patrols. To cover overtime costs, it is using grant funding through the Stop Arm Violation Enforcement Program — better known as the “SAVE.”

“SAVE” is a data-driven, federally funded grant program distributed by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Its focus is on cutting down on reckless driving in school zones and around school buses.

“Across the state of Indiana we have about 200 agencies participating in this particular mobilization this year. In Central Indiana alone we have about 40 agencies participating in it,” Devon McDonald, the Executive Director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said.

According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, last year alone more than 2,700 Hoosier drivers were cited for stop arm violations. Agencies interested in “SAVE” have to apply, then if they are selected, they are required to submit programmatic reports.

James says she is appreciative for the law enforcement presence.

“A lot of times when people see an officer following me, they will just stop. Whereas if their [law enforcement] presence wasn't there, they will just speed through," she said.

On Bus 46’s Friday morning pick-up, drivers are obeying stop arm rules. Crask hopes this continues.

“Absolutely it’s a good day. That’s what we want — everyone to be on their best behavior," he said.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will continue these stepped up patrols through the end of the school year.

Below is a list from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute of participating Central Indiana agencies in the SAVE program.
Boone County
» Boone County Sheriff's Office
» Lebanon Police Department
» Whitestown Metropolitan Police Department
» Zionsville Police Department
» Thorntown Police Department

Hamilton County
» Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department
» Carmel Police Department
» Fishers Police Department
» Noblesville Police Department
» Westfield Police Department

Hancock County
» Greenfield Police Department
» Fortville Police Department
» McCordsville Police Department

Hendricks County
» Brownsburg Police Department
» Hendricks County Sheriff's Department
» Avon Police Department
» Plainfield Police Department
» Danville Police Department
» Pittsboro Police Department

Johnson County
» Johnson County Sheriff’s Office
» Franklin Police Department
» Greenwood Police Department

Madison County
» Madison County Sheriff's Department
» Anderson Police Department
» Pendleton Police Department
» Ingalls Police Department
» Elwood Police Department
» Edgewood Police Department
» Chesterfield Police Department
» Alexandria Police Department
» Summitville Police Department

Marion County
» Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department
» Speedway Police Department
» Beech Grove Police Department
» Indiana State Police District 52
» Lawrence Police Department
» Cumberland Metropolitan Police Department

Morgan County
» Morgan County Sheriff's Department
» Martinsville Police Department
» Mooresville Police Department

Shelby County
» Shelby County Sheriff's Department
» Shelbyville Police Department