By Marisa Patwa
The Warrick County Standard
Local police are urging drivers to follow school bus laws in order to increase safety.
The Indiana State Police, Chandler Police, Boonville Police and Warrick County Sheriff's Office invited the press to ride along with police officers on Aug. 29 in Newburgh in order to observe how many violations occur by motorists ignoring school bus stops in a single morning.
Two violations occurred within 20 minutes of following a few school buses.
"Between 2007 and 2016, 98 children nationwide were killed outside the school bus," said Sgt. Todd Ringle, Indiana State Police public information officer. "Thirty-eight percent of those children are getting struck by motorists not stopping for the school bus stop arm."
Ringle said they see violations occur almost daily in Warrick County.
"Every year in Indiana, there is a day where school bus drivers report every single stop arm violation," he said. "They did that back in April this year. In one single day, there were over 3,000 statewide. That is an alarming number."
Ringle said he thinks the vast majority of motorists who don't stop for school buses do so simply because they're distracted.
"Or they're not totally clear when they are required by law to stop for a school bus," he said. "Very seldom do we see people deliberately and properly stopping for a school bus."
Ringle said the biggest issue with violations they see is on multiple-lane highways.
"A good example is S.R. 662 between Evansville and Newburgh, better yet, S.R. 662 between Newburgh and Chandler. Both are multiple lane highways," he said. "There is nothing that's dividing the eastbound and westbound lanes. So if a school bus stops on S.R. 62 near Walmart, everybody has to stop. We see a lot of issues on S.R. 62 and S.R. 662."
Ringle said the rule is different on a multiple lane highway that is divided.
"Like the Lloyd Expressway -- if a bus stops in the westbound lane, only the westbound traffic behind the school bus has to stop," he said. "The eastbound lane can keep on moving. So a lot of people are confused about that. And that's one reason why we're doing this, to raise awareness. So on those multiple lane highways where there is no type of divider, everybody has to stop."
Master Trooper Matt Lockridge said although officers might not always witness the violations themselves, they will get reports from the bus drivers.
"Usually, when a driver has more than one violation at an area, they'll report it to the state police and we'll do a patrol of that area," he said. "Drivers will also take down license plate numbers."
Ringle said there is a hefty fine for motorists who do not follow school bus rules.
"It's $220.50 in Warrick County," he said. "And then you get points against your driver's license."
Ringle said school bus safety also involves good parenting and children following the rules and paying attention to traffic as well.
"We want parents to remind their children, every single day, the importance of looking both ways before they cross the street," he said. "If children would look both ways, we may not have a lot of these crashes. But the vast majority of the kids don't look both ways because they know the law is requiring everyone to stop."
Ringle said before children get on the bus or after they get off of it can be a dangerous time as well.
"A lot of kids these days are on their phones and they aren't paying attention," he said, "They see the bus stop, go directly to the bus and don't look both ways."
Ringle said 62 percent of those 98 kids killed in that nine year span were actually killed by their own school bus.
"And that's why we stress to kids to stay out of the danger zone," he said. "Unfortunately, a lot of the times, kids get off at the school bus and they're getting the mail or talking to someone up on the school bus. The bus driver doesn't see them and they take off and run over the child."
Warrick County School Corporation bus driver Jack Markham said he always drives with one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the break pedal.
"You never know. You have to watch them close. They go front and back, and then they're all around you," he said. "Like this morning, I had a little kid run in the front. Luckily, I had my foot there. "
Markham said drivers need to be more cautious around school buses.
"We just want to make sure they get to school safe and get home safe," he said. "It's for the kids, but a lot of the times, you have a hard time making people understand that."
Ringle said everybody has to do their part.
"We really want the motoring public to keep their phones down and watch for those school buses," he said. "Nobody wants to hurt a child."